Wise Ways To Go Hands-Free For Cell Phones

Drivers in California and Washington state will have to use hands-free phones to talk while on the road under laws that take effect Tuesday. California's teen drivers won't get to talk at all.

California is banning 16- and 17-year-olds from talking - or texting - on their phones while driving, except in an emergency. Texting is not specifically prohibited for adults, but law enforcement officials say it's generally covered under statutes aimed at distracted drivers.

Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tells his teenage daughters they'll lose their cars and their phones if they're spotted cell-phoning-while-driving, notes CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

The crackdowns are part of a movement across the U.S. to get drivers' attention focused on the road rather than their conversations and their gadgets.

In California, anyone seen driving with a cell phone to their ear will be subject to fines of $20 for the first ticket and $50 for subsequent tickets, plus additional fees that will more than triple the fine.

The fine in Washington will be $124.

New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Utah are among the states with laws requiring hands-free use of cell phones.

Lawmakers in 33 states have introduced 127 bills related to driver distraction this year alone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

On The Early Show Tuesday, CNET-TV Senior Editor Natali Del Conte pointed to several types of hands-free systems motorists might opt for:

Your vehicle's in-dash Bluetooth system

Most new cars have built-in hands-free calling via Bluetooth. That means your car becomes one, big high-fidelity speakerphone without any wires. For a demo, click here.

Bluetooth headsets

Two of Del Conte's favorites:

1) The Jawbone: These have the highest sound quality of any headset on the market, are relatively affordable, and pretty stylish. They actually sense the vibration of your jaw and amplify the sound that goes along with those vibrations, so your callers hear your voice, rather than background noise. CNET editors tested it in a high-trafficked area in San Francisco and had absolutely no problems with performance.

2) The Iqua Sun Bluetooth: She likes this one because it's the world's first solar-powered headset. You charge it once and then you never have to charge it again, because the sun and the lights in your home and office charge it for you. It is $99.

Bluetooth speaker systems

These are speaker systems for the car that uses Bluetooth to route calls through a device that you can clip on the visor. These cost about $100 and they need to be recharged after a few hours of use.

The Motorola Rokr T505, for instance, routes calls through your car's stereo using an FM tuner and picks up calls through Bluetooth.

GPS Devices

Certain GPS devices have the capability to route calls through the system using Bluetooth. You basically use the unit as a speakerphone.

An example: Magellan Maestro 4250: Sound quality isn't great, but it gets the job done.

Wired headsets

If all else fails, use the wired headset that comes with your phone. The sound quality isn't great and they are cheap, but it's a heck of a lot better than getting a ticket, or worse, getting into an accident!

Editor's note: CNET is part of the CBS Corporation, as is CBSNews.com

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