Shortwave America readers, show listeners, followers, and fans: THIS IS A QST!
Below this introductory statement by Shortwave America is a verbatim copy of an e-mail sent through today by Brad, W9FX, who is the ARRL Illinois Section Emergency Coordinator. We are all well aware by now of many states that have put "distracted driving" laws on their books and these states have been kind enough to listen to the amateur radio community and the ARRL who represents us all in these and other radio communications matters in regards to communications law and our relationship to the 50 state union as federally licensed radio communicators about the emergency service we offer and are trained to perform in times of emergency such as severe weather, floods, earthquakes, and all other manner of disaster communications. These states have exempted FCC licensed amateur radio operators from their distracted driving laws.
The Illinois Legislature is proposing a rather dangerous and draconian "distracted driving" bill as follows in the words of Brad - W9FX:
Ladies and Gentlemen, we all have probably, to some degree, realized that this was coming. The horrific Missouri school bus crash of recent times resulting from a teen texting while driving led to a great cry to ‘ban distracted driving!’ I get it, I really do. Driving down the road while reading from a tiny little screen, typing on a midget-sized keyboard, and/or searching for iPod tunes cannot lead to safe drivers. We've all seen the results.
Still, these activities are not, for the most part, what hams do when operating from their vehicles. We turn on a rig, dial up a frequency or a memory channel and talk into a microphone. There is no distraction, at least not in the same sense as texting-while-driving causes. The National Safety Council has no evidence indicating that the use of amateur radio gear (in general) has statistically demonstated any driving hazard or risk.
The NSC notwithstanding, the Illinois Legislature, and, more particularly, the House of Representatives, is set to begin consideration of two proposed pieces of legislation designed to prohibit DISTRACTED DRIVING. I put that in CAPS because that’s what the intent of the legislation is purported to be. These two bills, HB3970 and HB3972, prohibit using all manner of electronic devices while one is driving unless said device is hands-free and/or voice-activated. Certain classes of operation are exempted from these bills including ‘persons driving emergency vehicles,’ someone reporting an emergency situation, or when the operator of the vehicle has the vehicle’s transmission in neutral or park and on the shoulder of the roadway.
If this legislation passes as it is proposed, the use of amateur radio gear while driving will be outlawed in Illinois.
Stop and read that last sentence again.
It matters little if you are Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, independent, or apolitical - these bills are absolutely Draconian in nature. You’re a SKYWARN volunteer you say? Sure. You can operate your radio after you get off the road and when you have the vehicle’s transmission in park or neutral – but, not until. Are you thinking about becoming a Rover-class participant in an ARRL or CQ-sponsored VHF contest or, or, perhaps, hand out a few of the more rare counties during the Illinois QSO Party? Not if you’re driving and in motion, you’re not! How about chasing DX while you’re on your daily 1 hour commute into Chicago? Nope. Can’t call your buddies on the local repeater while you’re driving, either.
We, the ARRL team here in Illinois, will weigh in with the legislature via our Stage Government Liaison, Charlie Richey, K9DUE. We are, however, to borrow a term, little more than spurious noise, to the Illinois Legislature. We aren't lobbyists. If we are to continue to enjoy the freedom to pursue our avocation, to enjoy the privileges our federal licenses grant to us, then, we Illinois hams, both individually and collectively, are going to have to get off our duffs and get involved.
Please take this message to your clubs...take it to your local VHF (or HF) nets...put the info out far and wide – from Rockford to Cairo, Quincy to Rosiclare. Contact YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE, YOUR SENATOR, AND, THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE and let them know your feelings about this. If nobody opposes this legislation, like so many other ‘well-intended’ measures, this heavy-handed and ill-conceived attempt at legislating common sense will pass into Illinois law. Then it will be law enforcement officers that decide whether or not what you’re using in your car to communicate is legal according to their interpretation of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Not many law enforcement officers know the difference between a Sprint P2T telephone and a D-Star HT.
I urge you to take the time to follow the links, below, read the text of these proposed laws, and make yourself heard - while there's still time to make a difference.