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posted: 1/3/2014 4:36 PM

Suburban stores see strong demand for hands-free phone equipment

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  • Video: Cell Phone Bluetooth Sales

  • Arlington Heights Radio Shack store manager Sadaf Farooqui shows the various Bluetooth devices available at her store. Sales of Bluetooth devices have spiked in recent days in suburban electronics and telecommunications stores now that talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device is illegal.

       Arlington Heights Radio Shack store manager Sadaf Farooqui shows the various Bluetooth devices available at her store. Sales of Bluetooth devices have spiked in recent days in suburban electronics and telecommunications stores now that talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device is illegal.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Roger Kalisiak of Hoffman Estates inquires about the Jabra In-Car Speakerphone at the Arlington Heights Radio Shack. Suburban electronics and telecommunications stores report brisk sales of Bluetooth devices since talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device became illegal in Illinois on New Year's Day.

       Roger Kalisiak of Hoffman Estates inquires about the Jabra In-Car Speakerphone at the Arlington Heights Radio Shack. Suburban electronics and telecommunications stores report brisk sales of Bluetooth devices since talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device became illegal in Illinois on New Year's Day.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The Plantronics Marque 2 is a popular Bluetooth earphone device these days in suburban electronics and telecommunications stores. As of New Year's Day, talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device is forbidden in Illinois.

       The Plantronics Marque 2 is a popular Bluetooth earphone device these days in suburban electronics and telecommunications stores. As of New Year's Day, talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device is forbidden in Illinois.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The Jabra Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone is a hard item to keep in stock, Arlington Heights Radio Shack employees say. Suburban electronics and telecommunications stores report brisk sales of Bluetooth devices now that it's illegal in Illinois to drive and talk on your phone without the wireless gear.

       The Jabra Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone is a hard item to keep in stock, Arlington Heights Radio Shack employees say. Suburban electronics and telecommunications stores report brisk sales of Bluetooth devices now that it's illegal in Illinois to drive and talk on your phone without the wireless gear.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

If you braved the snow and slick roads this week to purchase a hands-free device for your cellphone, you're not alone.

Employees at suburban electronics and telecommunications stores say the demand for Bluetooth communications equipment has spiked in recent days, now that it's illegal in Illinois to drive and talk on your phone without the wireless gear.

"People were coming in yesterday freaking out, saying, 'Oh my God, I need a Bluetooth,'" said Annette Haag, the manager of the Radio Shack store at 1511 S. Lake St. in Mundelein.

Sales are up at the Radio Shack store at 1223 E. Ogden Ave. in Naperville, too.

"We've been selling them left and right," manager Cory Kalinoski said. "We went from selling a couple a week to at least one per day."

As of New Year's Day, talking on a cellphone behind the wheel without a hands-free device is forbidden. Violators face fines of up to $75 for a first offense.

The law doesn't apply to passengers.

People who want to drive and talk have a few options.

Bluetooth headsets that fit snugly into one ear are popular. Made by a variety of manufacturers, prices range from less than $40 to more than $100.

Wireless speaker phones that clip to a vehicle's visor are available, too. Their prices also vary, from less than $30 to more than $70.

The speakers have been particularly popular at the Radio Shack store at 843 N. Wilke Road in Arlington Heights.

"I can't keep them on the shelf," manager Sadaf Farooqui said. "A lot of people don't like (the headsets) sticking in their ears."

Farooqui said she's had to hunt for Bluetooth devices at other Radio Shack stores to get them for her customers. When other stores call her in search of the merchandise, she protects her limited supply.

"Those are for my customers," she said.

The T-Mobile store at 1990 N. Rand Road in Arlington Heights only stocks wireless headsets, not the visor models, manager Issam Mohamed said. They've been selling briskly.

"Yesterday and then today, a lot of people have been coming in," Mohamed said.

Some shoppers have walked into stores not understanding how Bluetooth technology works or what types of products are available, Haag said. But they heard about the new law and want to be compliant.

Fortunately for them, police say they've been too busy dealing with accidents and other weather-related issues in the new year to focus on cellphone scofflaws.

"Because of the weather, it really has not been a priority," Lincolnshire Police Chief Peter Kinsey said.

Even when the weather clears, Kinsey said, enforcing the law won't be a top priority.

"My officers are aware of the new law ...but they're not targeting it," he said. "There's always a learning curve with any new law."

Radio Shack's Haag had another solution for people who want to avoid tickets for talking on the phone while driving.

"It's real easy," she said. "Just don't answer your phone."

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