How to Go Hands-Free

As millions of Californians prepare today for "hands-free" cell phone commuting, Americans around the country are readying themselves as the nation's state lawmakers follow suit.

Thirty-three states have introduced this year 127 bills related to "driver distraction," aimed at curbing the use of cell phones — or at least the handsets that may cause driver accidents. If you need to make the switch, you've got several options.

For drivers who need to go hands-free, remember that expensive headsets aren't the only way to go. You can use a wired or wireless headset, a speakerphone that is built into your phone or Bluetooth speaker system hard-wired into your car.

Bluetooth headsets range in price from $10 for the most basic to $150 for top-of-the-line models such as the Aliph Jawbone and the Plantronics Discovery 925, both of which include noise cancellation technology.

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If you don't like the feel of a headset, you can purchase an external speakerphone that connects to your cell phone via Bluetooth, such as the BlueAnt Supertooth 3 Hansdfree Speakerphone. It's a portable unit that clips to your car's sun visor and automatically uploads your phone's address book, providing text-to-speech announcement of your incoming caller's name or number. It's also small enough to move from car to car, or to a rental car as you travel from state to state.

Parrot makes Bluetooth hands-free car kits that can be hardwired into the car and integrated into its radio speaker system so that every time you enter the car, your phone is automatically synched. When a call comes in, the radio is automatically muted, and your call is heard through the speakers. Voice activation allows you to simply press one button and say "call home."

Many of the newer in-car GPS units from companies such as Garmin and Tom Tom also provide Bluetooth connectivity. You can pair your cell phone with your GPS and when your phone rings, the GPS unit acts as the speakerphone for the call. Some units that offer text-to-speech technology will also read your text message aloud to you — that is, if you want them read out loud in a car full of people.

If your phone is an older one and doesn't support Bluetooth technology, it will have a port for a wired headset. If you can't find the port or don't know which kind of handset to get, log onto FreeHeadset.org, which offers them typically for $3.94 each, the price of shipping and handling.

Companies like Nuance are using text-to-speech technology to keep you hands-free on the road. Nuance Voice Control, downloaded onto your smart phone, allows you to use your voice instead of typing. Press one button and speak your command, such as "send e-mail" or "add appointment" and then dictate your information. Click here for a complete list of compatible phones.

Bluetooth technology is already available in many high-end vehicles, and last year Microsoft teamed up with Ford to put its SYNC technology in its midpriced cars as well, such as the Ford Focus.

If you do get caught red-handed talking on your cell phone, pay your fine and send your ticket and receipt to Headsets.com. The online retailer wants to turn you into a lesson for others to draw attention to the new law — and bolster its new marketing campaign. For a limited time, the site will give away a Plantronics Discovery 925 headset to those who are ticketed.

Andrea Smith is the technology correspondent for ABCNews Radio.

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