Choosing the Right Phone Headset for Safe Driving

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Choosing the Right Phone Headset for Safe Driving

Current legislation prohibits motorists from using their mobile phone to make calls or text on their mobile phone while driving a vehicle. Phone headsets, also known as 'hands free' headsets enable the operator to control their phone remotely, while their hands are engaged in other activities. These are utilised by many motorists as a way of maximising their control of the vehicle while still being available to take and make calls. A headset is of value for many occupations which require multi-tasking, enabling people to perform manual tasks and communicate simultaneously. There are many different types of headset on the market, so it is worth spending time sourcing the make and model which will best suit individual needs.

Headset Technology

Phone headsets are constructed to utilise Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth is a form of communication which uses short range wireless waves to convey information. The radio waves form a wireless link between any devise which is capable of connecting using Bluetooth (a Bluetooth enabled item, such as a mobile phone) and a receiver (the headset). Using the Bluetooth wireless waves to transport data between the headset and phone (or other Bluetooth enabled device) only works effectively if the distance between the two is relatively short; usually a headset will fail to pick up data if the phone is located more than a few metres away. Prior to operating the phone using Bluetooth, it is necessary to ensure that the connection between the headset and the phone is working correctly. This process is called syncing. Syncing is achieved easily by charging and switching on both the headset and the phone, finding the connections icon on the phone's menu and subsequently clicking on Bluetooth then find Bluetooth. Once the headset icon appears on the phone screen, Bluetooth is enabled and the phone may be operated using only the large buttons and voice-activation features of the headset.

Choosing the Right Headset

Currently there are a large number of headsets on the market. Some are designed to work only with a particular make of phone, while others can be universally utilised. Factors which determine product choice include price, design, size, intended purpose, and manufacturer. Before choosing a headset, it is important to be clear on when, where, and how it will be utilised as these factors have a profound impact on the best type of headset to source.

Headset Styles

Several different styles of headset are available, the key features of which are summarised in the table below.

Style

Description

Over-the-ear or ear-loop design

These consist of a single plastic module which curves over the top of one ear. A soft, flexible top piece is joined to a more rigid and larger lower unit, which sits below the ear. The lower unit houses the operating mechanism and is where the buttons which control the device are situated. An over-the-ear style is suitable for either ear.

Over-the-head Design

A plastic band which sits over the top of the head connects two earphones which rest on each ear. The earphones are often padded with foam or softer plastic to increase comfort. The Bluetooth controls are located in a small, lightweight unit which is attached to the headphones using wires.

Earbuds

These are small, soft plastic insertions which sit within the ear. They are extremely lightweight and connect to the Bluetooth control unit using thin wires.

Behind-the-neck Headsets

Two soft, over-the-ear units are connected using a flexible wire which sits at the back of the neck. One of the units houses the Bluetooth controls.

Characteristics of the Safest Type of Headset to Use While Driving

While all styles of headset can form part of a hands-free system, it must be remembered that a driver still has to be in full control of the vehicle at all times. Inattentive drivers who are driving in a dangerous manner or cause an accident can still be prosecuted if communicating via their mobile phone is thought to have been a contributing factor, even if a headset was being utilised at the time. For this reason it is essential that the type of earpiece within the headset selected for use while driving allows as much awareness and interaction with the outside world as possible. The following table identifies the characteristics of the most appropriate earphone to use as part of a headset while driving.

Type

Description

Monaural

A monaural headset has only one earpiece. This leaves the other ear free and allows greater awareness and interaction with the user's surroundings than would be the case if each ear was being used for an earpiece. When driving, a high level of concentration on the driver's environment is required, meaning monaural headsets are preferable.

Earbuds / in-ear ear Pieces

In contrast to a circumaural headphones, earbuds or an in-ear headphone still allow some external noise to penetrate. This is helpful in a driving situation where priority needs to be given to effective control of the vehicle rather than sole concentration on the sounds coming from the ear pieces.

Voice Recognition Technology

Many systems now offer voice recognition technology, which enables a user to select the person they wish to call by speaking the required name rather than using a keypad to locate the relevant number. This allows a call to be made using only the begin/end conversation button on the headset. The operator is able to speak the name of the person they wish to contact into the microphone and the voice recognition technology enables the correct connection to be made. This limits keypad use while driving, increasing safety.

Additional Features Available for Hands-Free Headsets

As well as the safety attributes detailed above, there are a number of additional features which can be considered when purchasing a suitable headset. These can have a significant impact on the quality of the calls made and received as well as impacting on factors such as charging times, ease of use, and reliability. The main features to consider when choosing a headset are summarised in the table below.

Feature

Description

Customisable Fit

This allows the shape of the headset to be altered easily. Particularly if the user wears glasses for driving or uses the headset during varying activities, being able to tailor the fit is important.

HD Audio

Models of headset featuring HD audio operate along a broader bandwidth than other sets, resulting in better quality calls.

Noise Cancellation Technology

This feature reduces ancillary noise, enabling the phone conversation to be clearer for both the sender and the receiver.

Range

Bluetooth range can extend from a few metres to about a hundred. For many people, a larger range gives increased convenience.

Echo Suppression

Headsets offering echo suppression give greater call clarity.

Charge Life

Obviously the amount of use affects how often headset charging is required, but some models provide superior energy saving operation and can remain on standby for days rather than hours.

Call Mute

Particularly when driving, the need to be able to respond instantly to the vehicle's controls supersedes the need to talk. The Call Mute facility instantly reduces the volume of a conversation to allow greater concentration on the road.

Finding Headsets on eBay

For anyone wishing to purchase either a new or a used headset, eBay is an excellent place to look. When looking for a headset, start by clicking the All Categories tab, followed by Mobile Phone & PDA Accessories , then Car Speaker Phones. This will bring up a range of suitable products. The search term "hands-free" also generates a significant number of appropriate products. If a particular feature is especially desirable, inserting this prior to any of the previously mentioned search terms will refine the choice further; for example "voice recognition hands-free " or " voice recognition bluetooth ".

Conclusion

A suitable headset for use while on the road is an essential component of any driver's communication requirements. Careful choice of the right headset will result in a comfortable, high quality head piece which gives excellent call quality while allowing a high level of concentration on controlling the vehicle to be maintained.

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