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Oh, darn - state legislators across the country are at it again, going after distracted drivers and catching up ham radio operators in the bargain. This was the point when, on January 30, at the instruction of the Board of Directors at its January 2009 meeting, the ARRL Executive Committee adopted a policy statement on mobile Amateur Radio operations. The statement addresses the growing number of proposed state and local laws and ordinances regulating the use of cellular telephone and text messaging, inadvertently affecting Amateur Radio mobile communications. In its statement, the Executive Committee urges state and municipal legislators to limit the scope of their proposals, limiting them to devices such as full duplex wireless telephones and related hand-held or portable equipment. Alternately, it suggests that licensed Amateur Radio operation be listed specifically as an exclusion to the proposed regulations.
I can tell you for sure that any law that doesn't exempt ham radio will certainly be a problem for many operators like me, who safely enjoy mobile amateur radio operating nearly every day. Most of us have fun staying in touch with friends during an otherwise boring commute, generally on a VHF or UHF repeater system. There is a huge difference between trying to carry on a duplex telephone conversation and carrying on a QSO via two meters. Believe, me... I know. I've done both, and find the cell phone to be much more demanding than the radio. In a typical radio contact, everyone understands that the conversation may go silent when the driving conditions change or momentarily get difficult. There is never a problem tending to driving first. This is not the case with a cell phone conversation, which is often difficult to interrupt. And people who text message while driving, well, they're just plain negligent. Texting requires more "processor cycles" from the brain, and will certainly result in the driver failing to notice what is going on around their vehicle.
Amateur radio remains a valuable way to stay in touch while driving, and is solidly established as a proven way to report in during emergencies and SKYWARN nets. It should not be caught up in these "distracted driver" bills. You can read more about the initiative on the ARRL website, as once again the League goes to bat for amateur radio.
By the way, did you know that a blind lifetime membership in ARRL is only $200?
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