Use That New Phone Safely

This year million of drivers received new wireless phones for Christmas, and many of them were filled with a wide assortment of bells and whistles...not to mention games, onboard music storage and the ability to access the Internet. And now that you have all that technical wizardry, please be certain that you use it wisely. With more ways to get distracted, you have more ways to find yourself in an unfortunate situation if you're not careful. You must always remember that safety is your first responsibility behind the wheel. If you decide to use a mobile phone while driving, do it correctly.

"Road trips are a great American tradition, but drivers face many distractions in the car -- from eating lunch on-the-go, to kids playing in the back seat, to changing the radio station or CD," according to the CTIA -- The Wireless Association. "For years, the wireless industry has worked hard to educate drivers on the range of distractions they face, and to remind them that safety is always their first responsibility. That means using a wireless phone wisely, and recognizing when it's not the right time to make a call."

What are the wrong times to make a mobile call? In times when extra concentration on your driving is required -- in heavy traffic, in bad weather, in unfamiliar territory or when the conversation might be stressful or emotional. A good rule of thumb is to never talk to your mother-in-law while driving at all. (In fact, you might never want to talk to her period.)

Know Your Device
Here are some tips for living with a wireless phone while driving:

  • Get to know your wireless phone's features, such as speed dial and voice activation before you get behind the wheel of you car. Learn those features and how to use them safely and effortlessly prior to trying to use them as you drive. One key piece of equipment you should understand and use is a hands-free device. While not a panacea, a hands-free device can help you maintain solid control of your vehicle by allowing you to steer with both hands. Because they are so inexpensive, it's almost inexcusable not to use a hands-free device even in states and locales where it is not required by law.
  • Position your wireless phone within easy reach of your driving position before you get your vehicle underway. Reaching for a ringing phone in a briefcase located in the backseat is an invitation for disaster. And don't feel you always have to answer your phone either. Letting voicemail take your call is often a much better idea than reaching for the phone. If you're driving in hazardous weather conditions, in heavy traffic or on unfamiliar roadways the additional distraction of talking on the telephone might be just enough to cloud your judgment at a critical time. And no one wants their Christmas present to land them in the ditch.