What the Tech: Hands-free devices

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We’re all familiar with the dangers of drinking and driving, but distracted driving caused by the use of cellphones is equally dangerous.

States are banning the use of cellphones while driving, unless the driver is using a hands-free device.

You can see people all the time in the rear view mirror talking on the phone holding it up to their ear. And it’s completely unnecessary thanks to today’s voice assistants.

You don’t have to pick up the phone to summon Siri on an iPhone. You can ask her to dial numbers, get directions, read and send text messages. If you stopped using Siri because she always seemed to misunderstand you, give her another chance. Apple has enabled her to work with other apps now such as Pandora, Waze, What’s App, and Podcasts. To see what you can do, go to settings and Siri & Search. Under “My Shortcuts” you’ll see suggestions based on your recent activity. Tap “All Shortcuts”. To add one to Siri, just tap and record your trigger phrase “send tweet.”

For Android users, OK Google is maybe better than Siri. Just say “OK Google” to send a text, have a text read back to you, make calls. But Google has a great hands-free driving app called “Android Auto”. Words on the screen are larger and easier to see. It also integrates with dozens of Android apps including Facebook Messenger.

And Alexa is mobile and hands-free now. The Roav Via is a USB phone charger with Alexa built-in. She’ll do everything you’ve enabled on your Echo devices including playing music through your car’s Bluetooth.

There have been studies suggesting using these smart voice assistants contribute to traffic accidents by distracting us mentally. Even though our hands are on the wheel, asking for directions or talking on the phone or listening to music can take our minds off the road for as long as 27 seconds. So while they can help in some situations, it’s still best to pull over on the side of the road to do what you need to do on your phone safely.

Two more states will ban hand-held phone use beginning July 1.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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