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If you’re a family where cell phones and vehicles last for years, you may be missing out on the latest tech features and conveniences, including hands-free calling.
But don’t think you have to scrap your older but perfectly maintained Ram, F-150 or Silverado tow vehicle, or an old but trusted dinghy, just to get something as simple as hands-free calling. That would be as wasteful as buying a new cell phone every time the manufacturers bring out a new model—which, as with truck manufacturers, is every year, or close to it.
To be able to safely take a call or make a call while driving should be a priority. In some states, it’s not even legal to take or make a call any other way while on the road. Fumbling with a phone can take your eyes off the road longer than you might think. An AAA analysis of data from the Virginia Tech Transportation Safety Institute indicates that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chance of an accident.
Here are affordable ways to get hands-free calling.
Many aftermarket radios facilitate a wireless connection between the radio and phone. Incoming calls go directly to the radio for two-way conversation if you enable the phone before driving. And you’ll be able to place a call hands-free with voice recognition.
A quality aftermarket radio provides other advantages, too, such as Sirius radio reception (with a paid subscription), better AM/FM reception, and an input for external devices such as an iPod. Bluetooth would mean no physical connection is needed for music or calls. In vast stretches where radio reception is nonexistent, being able to play your favorite music or an audio book can help you to relax and keep you alert.
Make sure the radio you buy is compatible with your year, make and model vehicle. Sometimes inexpensive dashboard fillers are needed; to fit, an aftermarket radio can be too small, but not to bigYou can keep your old speakers if they’re in good shape.
Cost: $150-300 for radio; $0-75 installation; $10 per month and up for Sirius subscription
As an alternative, you can add an aftermarket device that mimics General Motors’ OnStar and handles your incoming and outgoing cell calls.
A good example is the Hum from Verizon. This small black box clips onto the driver’s sun visor. It’s physically unobtrusive and reasonably attractive.
The Hum and similar devices wirelessly link to all cell phone calls while you’re driving. A microphone picks up your voice and a speaker plays the incoming call. Since Hum’s wireless receiver plugs into your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port, it alerts you to potential problems, and it knows when your car breaks down or is in an accident. A service provider will call and ask you if you need assistance. You also can tell it to call 911.
If you use your vehicle for business, it logs your location and mileage. Logging miles just for calculating fuel mileage or maintenance needs is helpful.
Hum has an internal battery that must be recharged every month or so by plugging a cord into your vehicle’s power outlet. If you forget to recharge and your battery runs low, you’ll get an email reminding you to do so.
Cost: $80-$100 to buy the device, plus $10 per month service.
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