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Hold the phone! Cell phone car mounts in demand as new state law takes effect

Magnetic air vent phone mounts are popular. Just make sure they fit securely on your vent slots. KOMO photo

WASH. STATE - Once our state's new distracted driving law takes effect on July 23rd, holding your cell phone while you're behind the wheel can earn you a $136 ticket.

Second-time offenders will receive a $235 ticket and a distracted driving citation that could affect insurance rates.

It doesn't matter if you're at a stop light, stopped for an open bridge, or waiting for a long train to pass. The new law only allows the minimal use of a finger to take a call or issue a smart phone command when you're on the road.

Even with a blue tooth set up in your vehicle, a phone holder can help.

There are dozens of brands and styles of phone mounts to choose from and I found prices all over the place. I also found you don't have to break the bank.

A key factor with any cell phone mount is quality. Some mounts are very well made. Others are cheaply made and flimsy. You want a mount that will hold your phone securely in all road conditions without breaking, cracking, coming loose or allowing your phone to drop.

Another key factor is ease of access. You want a holder location that keeps your phone within your finger's reach, but also allows you to keep your eyes on the road.

For larger, heavier cell phones, especially models with thick, heavy cases, expandable clamp grip mounts designed to hold GPS devices offer extra stability.

Isaac Clark, a sales associate at Best Buy, cites two mounts from Bracketron as strong sellers: The Tek Grip Vent Mount for about $22 the NavGrip Dash and Windshield Mount for around $30. Both models use clamps to hold the phone.

Another popular dash and windshield mount, based on multiple customer reviews, is the iOttie Easy One Touch 3. A sticky gel pad attaches directly on your dash to help secure the suction cup. For use on the windshield, simply moisten the suction cup and snap it onto the window in the desired location.

This holder also uses a clamp grip, which expands to accommodate phones of varying widths. As with most dash suction mounts, attaching to a windshield simply involves moistening the suction base, adjusting the angle and snapping it into place.

The Easy One Touch 3 has more adjustable nobs than most dash mounts. They're designed for pivoting angles and moving your phone closer with a telescoping arm.

If you're not into moving parts, look for a dash or windshield mount that at least allows you to rotate the position of your phone from vertical to horizontal. And make sure it has a strong hold if you plan to mount it on your windshield. You can find one for less than $20.

Another important detail - pay attention to whether the sticky pad for the suction base is removable or permanent. Some are permanent, which means even when you remove the holder, the sticky pad stays put, unless you want to damage your dash.

People who use dash mounts feel they're the most stable way to hold smart phones. However, the dash design and material must work with the type of mount you choose. Also, depending on how they're attached, some dash mounts can be cumbersome to remove when you get out of the vehicle- which is what police recommend. Remember, even without your phone, an empty car mount can be a signal to thieves that there's something else in your car worth stealing.

Ease of attaching and removal might explain the growing preference for magnetic cell phone mounts.

There are a number of quality magnetic dash mounts on the market. Most involve attaching a small but permanent metal pad to your dash. Another metal pad goes inside your phone case or has an adhesive backing that attaches to the back of your case. Strong magnets hold the mounts in place on the dash while also holding our phone security in place.

Some of the more popular magnetic mounts attach to the vehicle's air vent. The WizGear Vent Mount is a top seller at less than $10. A small magnetized disc has a pointed rubberized tip on the back with slits designed to slip into your vent slats.

As with other magnetic mounts, you slip a metal plate or magnet inside your phone case or, if your phone case is too thick, attach the plate to the back of your case. The strong magnet keeps your phone attached to the mount on your air vent. When you leave the car, simply grab the phone and mount and go.

While magnetic air vent mounts are easy to install and remove, be aware that different brands have different mounting designs. The spacing of the vent slats in your vehicle can affect how securely the mount holds to the vent. Before you buy this type of mount, check your air vent slats, and make sure you buy a mount that will fit your vents snugly.

One reported disadvantage of air vent mounts in general, including those that hold the phone with clamp grips, is that they tend to block the air. Beyond that, a constant blast of hot air during cold months can cause your phone to overheat. Not good.

Regarding magnetic mounts, tech experts also say attaching a metal plate or magnet to the back of your phone can potentially interfere with wireless charging if you have an Android phone.

One more option - a mount that attaches to your CD slot. The MagGrip CD Mount from TechMatte is a favorite among drivers who no longer use their car CD players. This model uses a plastic nob to tighten the mount in the slot. A metal plate placed in or on your phone case attaches the phone to the magnet in the base, for about $11.

One word of caution with CD slot mounts- there are a number of brands and models, but pay attention to how they're made and read the instructions carefully. Leaving mounts attached to your CD slot in hot weather can melt the mount and potentially ruin your CD player.

You will also see phone mounts designed to fit in your cigarette lighter and cup holder. In my view, these mount lose points when it comes to accessibility, visibility and practically.

For starters, the location of most cigarette lighters and cup holders requires you to take your eyes off the road to see the phone, even if the holder has an long neck or other extension device. Beyond that, extension arms can block access to the heat and A/C, the radio and other controls. And if the phone mount is in your cup holder, you can't use the cup holder for its intended purpose.

Ultimately, which style of phone mount works best for you depends on the design of your car, your personal preference and the size and weight of your device. Stability, access and visibility are key.

I found a lot of good variations for each style and placement option. Just avoid holders made with flimsy, wobbly materials that won't hold up to shaking and pot hole jolts.

By the way, for extremely bumpy driving conditions like on a motorcycle, the heavy-duty "Ram X-Grip" seems to be a stand-out favorite. It's priced at around $50.

The point is, for most drivers, an investment of $10 - $30 gives you a tool that can help keep that phone out of your hands- so you're not caught texting, talking, checking or finding directions, when there's a higher risk that extra eyes will be watching- with a $136 traffic ticket in hand.

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