Archive for the 'Bill 118' Category

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As the dust settles on Bill 118

Seems some hams have just woken up to the ramifications of Bill 118 (Ontario’s distracted driving legislation) and the fact that in three-years time all mobile operators of two-way radios will have to find a way to use their equipment in a hands-free mode. RAC along with representatives from other affected groups including the Toronto FM Society, Ontario Road Rally Sport Association and several hard-working individuals have been making formal and informal presentations to Ontario government staffers and politicians for almost a year now. We have attended numerous meetings, sent tons of emails, placed and answered scores of telephone calls. There’s a lot of hard work and time been given to Bill 118 by these groups and individuals and we should be acknowledging their efforts.

So welcome to these new voices and I’d (VE3HG) like to offer some response to all the comments and emails.

For example (and I’m responding to what I’ve read leaving out names to protect the guilty):

  • Bill 118 does not limit anyone from operating a two-way radio while driving a vehicle in the province of Ontario
  • This isn’t the end of ham radio as we know it
  • RAC never was in negotiations with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. It’s silly to think so. We were one of a several dozen stakeholders who the government invited to comment on Bill 118 which we did with vigour and frequency but remember, we were the least financially significant group in the room (Remember $ talk) by a long shot
  • IMHO a legal challenge to Bill 118 isn’t going to happen unless somebody’s got an extra $50K to $100K
  • Even then, the province has the right to pass highway safety legislation (like seat belts) and Bill 118 is it
  • IC has so little interest in amateur radio that they don’t even track licenses let alone call a provincial government to defend its use
  • Someone (not me) should form a committee of concerned Ontario hams and create an action plan*
  • Finally, some emails have suggested that RAC could have done a better job. For that I personally apologize and I pledge to do a better job with your help in the future.

Peter – VE3HG

* As a former vice-president of a national public relations company which launched these sort of lobbying campaigns all the time, here’s where I’d start:

The 10-Point Plan:

  1. Research and create a document showing where similar legislation stands in all other provinces and states. The intent here is to create a position statement that clearly shows why amateur radio should be granted an exemption from Bill 118. If we can’t do this, then nothing else matters;
  2. Continue to liaise with the ARRL and other ham radio groups like ARES and CANWARN to share materials and info;
  3. Identify and contact all other organizations that have used amateur radio and solicit written letters of support for the continuing use of amateur radio signed by the head of these groups, associations and organizations;
  4. Create a lobbying plan of action and activate by contacting all MPPs in person. Email isn’t good enough;
  5. Maintain and continue contact with Ministry of Transport staffers with intent to show them scientific info designed to change their minds;
  6. Identify and work with other affected commercial stakeholders to find common ground and purpose in this effort;
  7. Talk to the current government and the loyal opposition and prepare them both (so whichever is in power in three years) to grant a permanent exemption to all users of two-way radios (my reasoning being that at the end of three years the politicians can say they’ve saved X number of lives and BTW those two-way radio folks aren’t part of the problem so they’re exempt.);
  8. Continue to publicize the community-service work being done by hams around the world, in Canada and across Ontario so that “hobby communications” isn’t deemed frivolous and banned outright;
  9. Continue to do daily or weekly updates to the RAC Blog like this one :) to keep everyone in the conversation loop;
  10. Don’t say anything in public or via email that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read or hear :)

Bill 118 explained

Thanks to a return telephone call from Ontario’s Ministry of Transport staff person who is in charge of working on Bill 118 we’ve got a better understanding of the definitions released this week in regards to Bill 118 Ontario’s distracted driving legislation. Seems the intent of section 14 is to allow the use of push-to-talk buttons and other controlling devices while banning the holding of a microphone while driving. This ban will come into effect in three years to allow for the introduction of hands-free technology when it comes to two-way radios.

Bill 118 definitions

Just when we thought Bill 118 was a dead issue comes the details of the definitions and exemptions. In section 14 we find this curious exemption:

Exemption for pressing buttons

14.  (1)  A person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while pressing a button on a hand-held wireless communication device to make, answer or end a cell phone call or to transmit or receive voice communication on a two-way radio if the device is placed securely in or mounted to the motor vehicle so that it does not move while the vehicle is in motion and the driver can see it at a quick glance and easily reach it without adjusting his or her driving position.

(2)  A person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while pressing a button on a device that is worn on his or her head or hung over or placed inside his or her ear or is attached to his or her clothing and is linked to a hand-held wireless communication device to make, answer or end a cell phone call or to transmit or receive voice communication on a two-way radio or a hand microphone or portable radio.

Needless to say an email was sent this morning to ministry staff asking for clarification. Sure reads like a typical vhf/uhf installation with microphone attached. Part 2 reads like a handie-talkie with an external microphone with a clip on the back to affix it to the operator’s clothing.

Ont. MoT official release on Bill 118

As of October 26, 2009, Ontario’s new distracted driving law will make it illegal for motorists to use hand-held wireless communication devices or any hand-held electronic entertainment devices while driving.This includes hand-held cell phones, texting and e-mailing.

Hands-free devices will still be permitted.

This new law also prohibits viewing a display screen unrelated to the driving task such as laptops or DVD players while driving.


The new law applies only to hand-held wireless communications and hand-held electronic entertainment devices.  This means drivers must only use wireless devices that can be used in a “hands-free” manner:

  • a cell phone with an earpiece or headset using voice dialling, or plugged into the vehicle’s sound system
  • a global positioning system (GPS) device that is properly secured to the dashboard or another accessible place in the vehicle
  • a portable audio player that has been plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.

Some wireless devices require that users push a button to activate and/or deactivate the device’s “hands-free” function.  This activity is permitted under the law.


All drivers

Drivers will not be permitted to use hand-held communication and entertainment devices when driving, with the following exceptions:

  • Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation
  • When the driver has safely pulled off the roadway and is stationary or is lawfully parked.

Other devices not included in the ban:

  • Viewing a display screen used for collision avoidance systems
  • Viewing a display screen of an instrument, gauge or system that provides information to the driver about the status of systems in the motor vehicle.

Emergency Response Personnel

Police, fire department and emergency medical services personnel will be permitted to use hand-held wireless communications devices and view display screens in the normal performance of their duties.

The use of hand-held radios by amateur radio operators (who provide assistance, especially in emergency situations such as severe storms and blackouts) will be phased out within three years, to allow hands-free technologies to be developed.

Commercial Drivers

A small percentage of drivers in transport-related industries (e.g., school buses, taxis, couriers) and public service workers (e.g., transit and highway maintenance workers) rely on the use of certain types of wireless devices and display screen technologies in the performance of day-to-day operations.

To help these businesses stay competitive, Ontario is granting a three-year phase-out period for the commercial use of two-way radios, including mobile and CB radios, to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed.

The new law will not affect mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices.  They will be exempt for commercial and public service vehicle drivers who are engaged in the performance of their duties.

Hand-mikes (push-to-talk systems) and portable radios (walkie-talkies) may be used in a hands-free mode.  This would mean the driver can use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkies is not held while driving.

Reaction to Bill 118

Reaction from amateurs across Ontario and from as far away as the US is coming in fast and furious to the provincial government’s decision to ban the use of hand-held devices on two-way radios in mobile installations in three years.

This three-year exemption that applies to the use of hand-held microphones associated with all two-way radios (not just amateur radios) allows us time to either incorporate hands-free devices (a VOX headset or VOX mic on a swivel stand attached to the sunvisor for example would comply with the ruling as would a Bluetooth interface which is already available commercially for one radio at this time) or time to organize and lobby for a permanent exemption.

While we may not agree with the research (or lack thereof) that the government used to make this ruling, we have the next three years to create a more positive outcome.

And, while it is human nature to react strongly, we might stop to realize that this is a great victory for amateur radio. We long feared, based on government staff questions, that amateur radio alone might have been immediately and severely adversely affected by Bill 118 and that commercial radio of all types including taxis and pizza delivery people might have been exempted. That did not happen.

RAC, along with the Canadian Association of Rally Sport, the Toronto FM Society, and individual amateurs including Vince d’Eon, VE6LK/3 and others lobbied long and hard over the last year to convince the government staffers, committee members and the Minister that the use of a hand-held microphone did not contribute to distracted driving and thus should be exempt from Bill 118.

Our position as stated remains the same and we would encourage individual operators to work together to create a united front able to offer well-researched information to help the government understand the error of its ways. So it comes down now to who among us willing to step up and form a working committee??

New rules on Ontario roadways

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation announced today that Bill 118 – the distracted driving legislation – is coming into effect as of Oct. 26. The new law will make it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices. Following a three-month period that begins October 26, where the focus will be on educating drivers, police will start issuing tickets on February 1, 2010.

All two-way radios in all vehicles with the exception of emergency responding vehicles must be hands-free in three years time. This news comes from the official government staffer who has been in communications with Radio Amateurs of Canada over the last year. At the end of the three-year exemption, all commercial, CB and amateur radio equipment used in moving vehicles by the vehicle operator must be hands-free in operation.

FLASH – Ontario hams get Bill 118 time-limited exemption


When all else fails – Hams at Olympic security

While Ontario hams await a ministerial decision about whether or not the province’s distracted driving Bill (118) will have any impact on the use of amateur radio equipment in moving vehicles, the United States government has involved amateur radio as part of its 25,000-square-foot super-security coordination centre for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

This surprising information was published in Saturday’s Globe and Mail and is likely even more surprising to hams in British Columbia who seem to be frozen out of participation in the Vancouver-based games over “security” by our own RCMP.

In another weird state of affairs, the October issue of CQ magazine includes a feature article in how to use and control your VHF/UHF or even your HF shortwave home station via your hands-free cell phone.

A decision on the possible impact of Bill 118 on Ontario amateurs is expected in October.

Bill 118 only weeks away

In published news reports today, Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley says that Ontario’s Bill 118 (the distracted driving Bill) will be in effect by the end of October. The National Post reports that Bill 118 will “make it illegal to talk, text or email on any handheld device while driving.”

Despite numerous meetings, telephone conversations and emails over a six-month period, Ministry officials and staff have yet to clarify if Bill 118 will affect the use of two-way radio transmitters and have offered no definition of a “handheld device”.

Radio Amateurs of Canada has consistently requested those amateurs in Ontario who are concerned with the possible impact of Bill 118 to work with their local MPPs to understand how the operation of two-way radios is different from the use of cellphones. Information has been provided to government officials concerning the long history of public service by volunteer amateur radio operators who are members of ARES and CANWARN among other service groups and clubs.

NSC responds to ARRL over cell phones

Thanks to Keith Baker, VA3KSF / KB1SF, President of the Lambton County Radio Club for bringing this information to our attention about what’s happening in the United States in regards to distracted driving and amateur radio:

U.S. National Safety Council Responds to ARRL:

No Evidence of "Significant Crash Risks" While Operating Mobile

ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, wrote a letter to the (USA) National Safety Council’s President Janet Froetscher in July expressing the ARRL’s concerns that Amateur Radio not become an unintended victim of the growing public debate over what to do about distracted drivers. Froetscher has now replied saying the NSC does not support bans or prohibitions on the use of Amateur Radios while driving.

Noting that there is significant evidence that talking on cell phones while driving poses crash risk four times that of other drivers, Froetscher observed that the NSC position calling for bans on the use of cell phones while driving is grounded in science.

"We are not aware of evidence that using Amateur Radios while driving has significant crash risks," Froetscher wrote in her August 24 letter. "We also have no evidence that using two-way radios while driving poses significant crash risks. Until such time as compelling, peer-reviewed scientific research is presented that denotes significant risks associated with the use of Amateur Radios, two-way radios or other communication devices, the NSC does not support legislative bans or prohibition on their use."

Froetscher said that while "the specific risk of radio use while driving is unmeasured and likely does not approach that of cell phones, there indeed is some elevated risk to the drivers, their passengers and the public associated with 650,000 Amateur Radio operators who may not, at one time or another, not concentrate fully on their driving." She points out that the "best safety practice is to have one’s full attention on their driving, their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Drivers who engage in any activity that impairs any of these constitutes an increased risk."

ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the ARRL "appreciates NSC President and CEO Janet Froetscher’s clear statement that the NSC does not support legislative bans or prohibitions on the use of Amateur Radio while driving. We applaud the NSC for taking positions that are grounded in science. At the same time, all radio amateurs should heed her call to concentrate fully on driving while behind the wheel. It is possible to operate a motor vehicle safely while using Amateur Radio, but if it becomes a distraction we owe it those with whom we share the road, as well as to our passengers, to put safety first."

On January 30, 2009, the ARRL Executive Committee adopted the ARRL’s Policy Statement on Mobile Amateur Radio Operation that states "Amateur Radio mobile operation is ubiquitous, and Amateur Radio emergency and public service communications, and other organized Amateur Radio communications activities and networks necessitate operation of equipment while some licensees are driving motor vehicles.

Two-way radio use is dissimilar from full-duplex cellular telephone communications because the operator spends little time actually transmitting; the time spent listening is more similar to, and arguably less distracting than, listening to a broadcast radio, CD or MP3 player. There are no distinctions to be made between or among Amateur Radio, public safety land mobile radio, private land mobile radio or citizen’s radio in terms of driver distraction. All are distinguishable from mobile cellular telephone communications in this respect. Nevertheless, ARRL encourages licensees to conduct Amateur communications from motor vehicles in a manner that does not detract from the safe and attentive operation of a motor vehicle at all times."

In his letter, Harrison explained to Froetscher that Amateur Radio operators provide essential emergency communications when regular communications channels are disrupted by disaster: "Through formal agreements with federal agencies, such as the National Weather Service, FEMA and private relief organizations, the Amateur Radio volunteers protect lives using their own equipment without compensation. The ability of hams to communicate and help protect the lives of those in danger would be strictly hindered if the federal, state and local governments to not ensure that Amateur Radio operators can continue the use of their mobile radios while on the road."

Froetscher replied that she "appreciate[s] your focus of Amateur Radio for emergency communications during disasters. I encourage ARRL to adopt best practices for the safe operation of vehicles that confines use of Amateur Radios while driving only to disaster emergencies."

The Policy Statement asserts that the ARRL "is aware of no evidence that [mobile] operation contributes to driver inattention. Quite the contrary: Radio amateurs are public service-minded individuals who utilize their radio-equipped motor vehicles to assist others, and they are focused on driving in the execution of that function."