Friday, January 27, 2012

Proposed Illinois Legislation Would Ban Federally Licensed Amateur Radio Ops From Mobile Operation

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.


William C. Mason said...

I remember the days when Ham Operators were respected, and needed for Emergency Services. We were all license with the privilege of helping our citizens communicate in disastrous or catastrophic conditions. Having and using a mobile rig to report and or assist in getting help for a number of emergency situations was supported by every. How country doesn't care or thing they need us anymore. However, they need to look on how many Amateur Radio Operators have help saved lives each years. The report auto accidents and assist to help the victum's. They report tornado sightings, hurricane disasters, forest fires, missing children, and God only knows how many other situations. So Illinois wants to change the law so they can write more tickets. You can't hardly drive in their State without cops all over the highways. You'd think they had a enough money already. But, that another story as Paul Harvey would have said... All changes are not good changes...... DE W4ZJM

Anonymous said...

I live in southwest Illinois and I can't agree more. Frankly, Illinois is to fascism as California is to socialism. The government here is working to control every facet of a person's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. It's disgusting. That which they can't tax, they would like to legislate out of existence. It's one of the nice things about living in the US, I can move. But I digress ...

Honestly, I think that if they want to worry about "electronic" devices used in cars, they'd be more worried about radar detectors and folks of all ages that get wrapped up in their own world when listening to their FM radio in the morning.

Hams are typically some of your more responsible types. Not sure what it would accomplish by denying a amateur operator the ability to operate from a moving vehicle. I am not sure how they'd really enforce something like that.

To Mr. Mason's point, he's right, it seems like there is one state policeman to every 5 people (yes, I know that I am making a gross exaggeration) around here. I was in the meat market in my little village last weekend and two officers in two different vehicles pulled up outside and came in just to shoot the breeze with the owner.

de W4HUG

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, every time someone pulls a bone-headed stunt I look over and see them talking on the phone. I like talking on my radio, but I worry about my kids more. Tom AB9NZ

Anonymous said...

Will this legislation include the emergency services? When a police officer is following a vehicle and the officer suspects that the driver is using 'a device' I assume that the officer will use the police radio!

Anonymous said...

The proposed legislation may have a loophole, at least for some hams. In defining an electronic communications device is says "but does not include...a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle." I'm wondering if a mobile radio is mounted in the vehicle, power comes directly from the battery and the antenna is permanently mounted, would that not constitute "physical AND electronic integration into the motor vehicle?" This may not be much help for those with HTs, but it is a possibility.

While I am opposed to the legislation on many grounds, this may offer a little hope. Perhaps hams in Illinois could argue for an exemption based on amateur radio license plates. This would allow for law enforcement officers to distinguish sprint p2t users from the amateur radio community.

It would also be reasonable to educate the public who may support the legislation that hams in non-emergency distracting situations are trained to put the microphone down.

de W9GMT

Anonymous said...

They tried this in Texas and found that when the hams got together and fought it that they won and hams were excluded.