Cell Phones Bills May Curtail Mobile Operation

I am all for banning cell-phone use while driving. What I didn’t think about is that legislation banning cell-phone use might also outlaw mobile amateur radio operation. Legislation is in the works in Georgia, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. If you live in those states you might want to find out about them.

Over and above that, be careful out there! I haven’t heard of any incidents where an amateur radio operator caused an accident or could not avoid one because he or she was distracted by his or her mobile operation, but the danger is real……..Dan

From the February 16, 2007 ARRL News:

Bills aimed at thwarting “driving while cellular” and “driving while distracted” behavior have been introduced in several states, and most are worded broadly enough to potentially proscribe some Amateur Radio mobile operation. ARRL Regulatory Information Specialist Dan Henderson, N1ND , so far has catalogued 11 active pieces of legislation. Bills introduced in Montana and New Mexico have been sidelined for now, but related measures — more than one in some states — remain alive in Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. Henderson reports that ARRL Field Organization volunteers and members called the League’s attention to the various pieces of pending legislation, none of which specifically exempt Amateur Radio mobile operation.

“In most cases we try to work to have language exempting Amateur Radio inserted into the bill, rather than narrowing by definition the behavior or activity the bill seeks to address,” Henderson explains. “It is a far easier approach and removes ambiguity down the road.”

Henderson says that, if requested, the League will advise radio amateurs preparing to testify about a bill before a state legislative committee. “We offer some suggestions regarding what to cover and how to approach their testimony,” he said. “We also will speak with legislators or their aides to try and clarify questions or help them craft language that help accomplish our goal of specifically exempting Amateur Radio operation from these measures.” Most of the measures include exceptions for emergency communication and law enforcement agencies.

[[Details about individual bills deleted.]]

Henderson advises ARRL members to contact their Section Manager to learn about any initiatives under way to address the ham radio implications of a particular state bill.


  1. Not only have I not heard of any hams not having an accident because of radio use in the many years of commercial two way radio repair business I never heard of anyone having an accident because of radio use. I also worked as a technician for a cellular company for many years and I believe the accidents caused by cell phones is over rated.

    Did you know that it was illegal to use a ham radio in the state of Connecticut in the fifties and sixties? I am not sure when the ban was lifted.

  2. I have to agree that cell phone related accidents are severly over-hyped. Maybe not the text messaging related accidents, but there are so many things you could ban while driving because of so called distractions. I think people should police themselves in this particular matter.

  3. Here in california, starting july 2008 it is illegal to use a cellphone while driving

  4. I live in California and had to go out and buy and hands free device.

  5. Dear ________,

    I am writing you to voice my strong opposition to ____________.
    These recently introduced bill(s) limit the use of cellular phones and “mobile telecommunications devices”. My concern is that there is no exemption for Amateur Radio operators and their associated equipment.

    Amateur Radio operators have contributed valuable contributions to society including valuable emergency communications, this most recently spotlighted in the total collapse of New Orleans’s communications networks during and after hurricane Katrina. Amateur Radio operators provided exemplary communications support for the city. Many of the operators volunteered, traveling from states across the nation. It would be impracticable to regulate the use of their mobile equipment in any state.

    The federal government via the FCC licenses amateur Radio operators alongside state, county, and local emergency service responders as well as state agencies such as the department of transportation and other state services. Allowing any of these bill(s) to pass would cause these users to be in violation of state law as well. I therefore ask you to ensure that mobile radio users are exempted from these bill(s) if allowed to pass.

    It is important to remember that the hobby and volunteer service of any amateur radio operator relies heavily on the ability to use communications equipment while mobile in a vehicle. Almost all communications gear in this industry is designed for mobile use, including handheld radios. Equipment used stationary in buildings is usually mobile equipment augmented by power supplies. Furthermore if Amateur Radio Operators are restricted to hands-free devices the practical application of using communications gear while mobile would be hindered and possibly made dangerous. Mobile radio operators have used radio devices since the early day of radio without any problems or any laws to restrict their usage. Restricting Amateur Radio to hands-free devices is not an option.

    With the broad implications and to prevent confusion with neighboring states, I ask you to have the above bill(s) modified to allow unrestricted amateur radio use by the driver of a vehicle while the vehicle is in motion. Furthermore, for the sake of the industry and related services I ask that the restrictions outlined in the above bill(s) apply to paid subscriber cellular telephone services only, completely exempting all other communications.

    For the mentioned bill(s) if modifications cannot be made I ask you to vote against these bill(s). I understand the importance of highway safety, however the vague nature of these bill(s) jeopardizes Amateur Radio.


  6. Maybe new drivers should be taught how to use a cell phone or a radio safely while driving. A portion of the driving test could include driving while talking on a cell phone. If you can do it safely you pass your test and get a license or an endorsement on your license permitting cell phone use. There could even be an insurance break, lower rates for drivers who agree not to use a cell phone in the car.

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