Eagle-eye reader Ken Grant, VE3FIT, noticed the Toronto Star Wheels editor quoting an Ontario ministry of transportationspokesperson as saying that since CB radios are hardwired into the vehicle, the microphones are not considered handheld devices and are thus exempt from the province’s distracted driving legislation Bill 118.
We fear this is an issue of the Toronto Star quoting itself from a previous erroneous statement made by a government official before the legislation was passed.
However I’ve got a call into the spokesperson for clarification.
Having said that: If you want to help fight to get a permanent exemption for amateur radio use by drivers in moving vehicles in Ontario then please do the following today:
- If you haven’t already, please renew your membership. We need to show the government that the amateurs in Ontario are part of an organized and determined group (RAC) dedicated to working towards a permanent exemption for ham radio;
- If you’re not a member (and go read the benefit statement for RAC) (here’s more) please join today (see above);
- If you are a member, please go to your local club, ARES groups, radio associations or neighbouring hams and ask them to support you and all the other amateurs in Ontario by becoming a RAC member today.
- Get ready to be asked to go visit your local MPP with a statement (which I’ll write for you) about why an exemption is warranted and how it will benefit the people of Ontario;
- Keep reading this blog for more information to come soon.
An article in The Lindsay Post quotes an acting Staff Sergeant with the City of Kawartha Lakes Police saying that amateur radio was not covered by the ban on hand-held devices as mandated by Ontario’s Bill 118.
Of course, the officer has misspoken however this may not be the first or last time we will be faced with this sort of misinformation.
Radio Amateurs of Canada is contacting the police service and would encourage amateurs in other communities who face similar erroneous understanding of Bill 118 or similar legislation in their province to immediate contact their local police service and offer a clarification.
Here’s a PDF of Bill 118 HTA- ON. Reg 366.09 with the amateur radio exemption clearly noted.
It appears that amateur radio operation in moving vehicles in the province of British Columbia will be exempted from proposed distracted driving legislation expected to be introduced soon. Amateurs in B.C. contacted local MLA’s and lobbied agencies and other government organizations helped by ham radio to speak on behalf of the benefits of the amateur radio service. Significant support for amateur radio came from Emergency Management BC, PEP, and many other organizations that are supported by amateur radio.
Bill Gipps, VE7XS, director, BC & YK, Radio Amateurs of Canada credits the BC hams professionalism and dedication to the hobby as a key component in winning this exemption.
I stole this headline from Bruce, VE3QRP (aka: VE9QR) who wrote in a comment published recently on this blog the following:
“… what I want to see are news reports that highlight how hams are inventing new approaches to ensure that two-way mobile communication is safe. The story we want to tell is, “we pioneered the technology that makes cellphones work, now we’re pioneering technology to make mobile communications safe.”
This is brilliant.
And it doesn’t preclude our continuing effort to educate governments (i.e. Ontario) that don’t exclude the use of two-way radios in moving vehicles in the error of their logic but it does allow us to take the higher ground.
If amateurs in the affected jurisdictions lobby their legislators for relief and gain the active support of national and provincial benefactors of amateur radio there may well come a time when we should go public with our story of community service which is long and admirable. And, in the meantime, we can show how we are contributing to roadway safety through our own technological expertise.
Look: I suspect some of the anger over legislation like Bill 118 comes as it is a slap in the face of those amateurs who have devoted countless hours (and cash to buy equipment) to serve their communities in times of need. And now we have the ban on hand-held devices as our thanks. It suggests to me a government that acted without clearly considering or even understanding either the history of our contribution or the future potential of our support. From a technical point of view, there is no clear evidence (this from the U.S. National Safety Council) that the use of amateur radio in anyway contributes to distracted driving.
For those hams who say well that’s it I’m taking my radio out of my car and I’m never helping anybody again. That’s really sad and we’ll miss you on the air and at our community events. It’s a bit like saying I’m taking my marbles and going home isn’t it? Why not join us in the work that lies ahead?
- Amateur radio has been around a lot longer than the governments that exist today
- We have faced similar legislation before (we were off the air during WWII) and recovered
- We have the ability to operate mobile safely with or without a microphone
- No one is saying we can’t talk and drive a moving vehicle
- And finally, and this is our ace in the hole, when all else fails, there’s amateur radio*
* Hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants have been awarded to amateur radio organizations to create radio networks capable of supporting government effort following state- or province-wide disasters where amateur radio was at the forefront of the life-saving efforts. It’s easy to forget the central role amateur radio plays in disasters around the world. And while we would never wish an ice storm or wide-spread tornadoes (which almost happened this summer in southern Ontario) on the people of Ontario or any other disaster when it comes down to it often it’s amateur radio that comes to the rescue. Unfortunately politicians can have short memories and we’ve got our work cutout to remind them that amateur radio is a viable and vital community resource.
Bruce, VE3QRP, — nice call Bruce but you’ll never be able to operate QRO with a straight face — has a very thoughtful post on Bill 118 and amateur radio use at this blog here VE3QRP.
Right now, in Canada, some provinces are totally exempting the use of amateur radio from their distracted driving Bills and others, most notably Ontario, are going to make hands-free in all moving vehicles where the driver operates a two-way radio mandatory. And, as I’ve said before: Hands-free isn’t the end of amateur radio mobile as we know it. It’s relatively easy to do. The question comes down to more of: Is it necessary to make provincial roadways safer?
I hate to be harsh here but let’s not waste time beating our chests claiming “our rights” and “they” can’t do this to us. They can and they have.
In those provinces where amateurs have made convincing arguments (often to sympathetic ears in government), exemptions have been forthcoming. In Ontario, based on results, we didn’t find friends in high places when we needed them. I’m not blaming anyone here (and in fact if there’s any responsibility it may well be mine as I live in Ontario and aside from the fact I volunteered to be on the RAC executive this year I could have done more to connect with my local MPP long before I needed him or her to help me now.).
The fact that the provincial laws are all over the map may help us in the long run. The fight to exempt amateur radio from the distracted driving legislation isn’t over yet in my opinion. I’d like to see the amateurs in especially Ontario get together and work towards a permanent exemption. As Bruce, VE3QRP, points out in his blog that might not be easy and any exemption must be based more on scientific fact (which we may or may not be able to gather) rather than opinion and angry, hurt outbursts from a few.
Let’s work together.
Seems the three-year exemption from Ontario’s Bill 118 granted amateurs holding a valid radio operator’s certificate only applies to Canadian amateurs. The government exemption applies to operators holding radio certificates issued under the Radiocommunications Act (Canada). This means foreign amateurs including hams from the U.S. are not exempt from immediate prosecution under Ontario’s distracted driving legislation.
Bill, VE3MEW, among other amateurs in Ontario is looking for help from other hams to convince the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to adopt similar wording as used in Manitoba to exempt the use of two way radios from the distracted driving legislation. Bill’s research has found that Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland/Labrador did not mention any other electronic device other then cell phones and their legislation is designed to control only the use of a cell phone in a vehicle. Bill can be reached at email@example.com
Here’s a link to the Manitoba information:
Despite the assertions of some hams that amateur radio mobile operation in Ontario is exempt from provincial leglistation since we are federally licensed comes this information from a very recent meeting between Radio Amateurs of Canada officials and officials with Industry Canada. Seems even inspectors working for Industry Canada must comply with the provincial legislation because they too are subject to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act when they drive on public roads in Ontario.
While all amateur radio operators should support safer driving legislation such as Bill 118, we contend that the proper, responsible use of mobile amateur radio two-way radio transceivers does not contribute to distracted driving. And, we believe that given the support of amateur radio operators across Canada we can provide compelling data that supports our contention. And, further this initiative must come from those of us who truly care about amateur radio and safe mobile operation. It is not the responsibility of one ham who writes a blog …. It’s not the responsibility of Radio Amateurs of Canada which is merely (and I use this term not to minimize RAC’s effect but to bring attention to RAC’s limited resources) a small group of volunteers. It’s the responsibility of every single one of us who cares about amateur radio and our ability to provided communications services to our local communities and to freely enjoy our hobby.
Now is the time for those of you who do care about amateur radio to ban together. Amateur radio has long been referred to by some as the secret brotherhood (and increasingly over the years a sisterhood as well). We are everywhere but to the public we remain largely unknown. Our achievements and sometimes moments of heroic service have gone unacknowledged. We have remained modest and quiet for too long.
We have a compelling story to tell. We need to begin to tell it to all who will listen. Who will join us in this campaign for change?
…And the but is what will changes to B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act (to take effect Jan. 1st) do, if anything, to the operation of amateur radio equipment in moving vehicles? While the act bans the use of hand-held devices there is an exemption for the use of two-way radios for industry (e.g., trucking, logging, oil and gas). B.C.hams need to discover whether or not amateur radio is exempt.
Concerned B.C.hams might want to create a committee to send a delegation to meet in person with government staff who are actually writing the legislation to determine if there is an exemption provided for amateur radio. If not, then B.C. hams might want to provide Solicitor General Kash Heed with correct scientific data about the relative safety of all two-way radio operation in mobile vehicles. They may wish to stress that of all the groups using two-way radios in the province, it’s amateur radio operators who are the only ones to actually pass a federal examination that specifically allows them the priviledge to operate two-way radio transmitters in their vehicles.
If the Ontario situation where amateurs have been granted a three-year exemption before they too must go either “hands-free” or wireless is any example then now is the time to communicate directly with the government. An argument can be made that the Amateur Radio Service provides hundreds of hours of free, volunteer service to the community. Now would be the time to make personal visits to ask local and provincial organizations that have benefitted from the Amateur Radio Service to write letters of support to be sent to the solicitor general. Organizations could include local and provincial heads of the Red Cross, Salvation Army, mayors, reeves, councillors, organizers of special events, police and other emergency responders.
Meetings with local members of the provincial government should be arranged and our case put before them.
Hams in B.C. would be wise to avoid falling into lengthy discussions about the amateur radio operators’ “rights” to operate a federally licensed two-way radio. (IMHO that “privilege” is unaffected. What will change in Ontario, for example, is in three years all two-way radio operation by drivers in moving vehicles must comply with the provincial highway traffic act. All other discussions about who does what can be a distraction from the fact that somebody should do something. Of course, anyone with tons of money to spend can challenge the legislation but no one is counting on this happening soon.
All of the above is a lot of work. It will take the efforts of many.
Within the next few days police in Ontario will begin to pull over drivers they see texting or talking on cellular telephones. It is entirely likely that some amateur radio operators, who are legally exempt from Bill 118, will be stopped if they are seen to be operating their mobile radio equipment.
In order to prevent any unnecessary delay, amateurs in Ontario should consider carrying a copy of their Certificate of Proficiency plus a copy of the exemptions section of Bill 118. (Here’s a link.)
While such stops maybe annoying, the ability to produce these documents quickly would likely prove helpful.
If you are stopped by police for operating your two-way radio equipment RAC would very much like to hear from you. We will be keeping a record of any such stops for possible future use in our ongoing talks with government officials.
Any information can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org