DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE A DISAGREEMENT. HE SAYS THAT IT IS SAFE TO USE A HANDS-FREE PHONE WHEN HE DRIVES. HE SAYS IT IS NO DIFFERENT THAN TALKING TO A PASSENGER SITTING IN THE FRONT SEAT. I DISAGREE, AND I TRY NOT TO USE MY PHONE IN THE CAR AT ALL. Candace, Burlingame.
Dear Candace: You have asked a great question, and there is no single answer to the question of whether you can drive safely while talking on a hands-free smartphone. It is going to depend on attention factors. Is the road wide-open road or is there traffic cutting in? It is also going to depend on the conversation, is it ‘yes’ and ‘no’ or is it emotional and involved? Talking with a passenger is generally safer because passengers look ahead and alert the driver to dangers by subtle changes in voice or tone. The person at the other end of the smartphone is clueless about what’s going on outside the windshield. If you contact me via email, I will send you more resources on this.
DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: I AM OLD ENOUGH TO GET MY OWN CAR AND HAVE BEEN SHOPPING FOR A USED ONE WITH MY PARENTS. WE REALLY DISAGREE ON THE FEATURES. I WANT A CAR THAT HAS APPLE CARPLAY SO THAT I CAN SEE THE MAPS, AND STREAM MUSIC AND DO OTHER THINGS. MY PARENTS DON’T SEE THE NEED FOR ME TO HAVE A CAR WITH THIS FEATURE AND SAY THAT IT IS LIMITING OUR CHOICES. I PLAN TO PAY FOR MOST OF THE CAR AND THEY WILL PICK UP THE INSURANCE. PLEASE HELP! Emily, Mill Valley.
Dear Emily: Many young people, like yourself, expect cars to have state-of-the-art infotainment centers.. Older people are not accustomed to these and do not see all the advantages. It is important to remember that .you are buying a car, not an entertainment system, so don’t put the cart before the horse. Your safety comes first. Look at the reliability of the vehicle, and since it is used, make sure it is equipped with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. Those should take priority over smartphone connections! Your parents may be worried about your future driving. That big entertainment console is hands free, and that’s a good thing, but playing around with your phone will still keep your visual attention and cognitive focus off the road.
DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY WIFE AND I ARE GOING TO TAKE AN OVERDUE HONEYMOON. WE GOT MARRIED LAST YEAR AND FINALLY HAVE THE TIME TO DO THIS. MY WIFE DOES NOT WANT US TO BRING ALONG OUR SMARTPHONES. BUT I FEEL THAT WE WILL BE TOTALLY DISCONNECTED AND MISS OUT IF WE DO NOT. Old Groom in San Mateo.
Dear Old Groom: You and your wife need to be on the same page when it comes to the type of honeymoon/vacation you want. Are you going to drive a lot, in which case you may need the maps on your phone, or are you going to sit on the beach and relax? Seek a compromise: can you agree to check the phone for one hour a day, say after breakfast? P.S. Remember to turn off the notifications and ringer at night if you travel to a different time zone!