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.