RAC – Bill 118 – And Stuff

Even after I resigned my post of vice-president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada last year, I still get emails and the occasional calls from concerned amateurs wondering what is going or not going on with our national association.

I direct them to the current RAC president Geoff Bawden.

Here’s an example:

I got an email recently reporting back on the efforts by individuals from one of the oldest and biggest clubs in Ontario to talk with their MPP about Ontario’s distracted driving legislation Bill 118 which grants Ontario hams a soon-to-be-expired time-exemption from the law.

Our correspondent sent some information to their local MPP with a covering letter and then heard nothing back. No surprise. I suggested not leaving our successful lobbying in the hands of the MPP’s underpaid staff but to followup with phone call and book an appointment.

This is what RAC should be recommending every club and Amateur Radio group in Ontario do right now. Why this is not happening is beyond me. Very soon, it will be too late to do anything.

When I was attempting to garner support for a much needed RAC membership campaign, I suggested we make membership personal and that every existing member go ask at least 10 of their friends to join. I did it and so did a bunch of other guys. If you went to one club meeting or one flea market in the year you could easily reach 10 guys.

Not everybody was so enthusiastic. I actually got an email from one RAC member who said because they were involved in RAC doing public service they didn’t see why it should be their job to recruit new members.

I hope this guy and the many like him enjoy the camaraderie they now have in RAC because I guarantee you with this sort of an attitude RAC won’t be around much longer and none of us in Ontario will be using a hand–held microphone while we drive*.

Finally I noticed on the RAC Blog of Jan. 21 posting from Ontario STM VE3GNA/VA3OPN where among other questionable comments in a lengthy piece lifted from the Brass Pounders Quarterly a writer makes an allegation about the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) .

Ah guys:

Reckless allegations of this nature could be considered legally actionable and have no place being republished on the RAC Blog. American and Canadian law differs when it comes to slander, libel and defamation of character.(These are the big three that any publisher must understand before the print, post or broadcast anything.) Just because it originates somewhere else doesn’t mean it should be republished by RAC here in Canada.


*To those hams who wrongly claim the Ontario government can’t pass legislation that affects our federally licensed hobby. Wake UP! It’s over. The legislation passed. It’s law. We lost.

Now if you really want to do something worthwhile write your MPP. Follow up that letter (not an email) with the telephone call and book an appointment to talk about why hams should be exempt from Bill 118. Get your facts straight (find a list of provinces and states that have exempted Amateur Radio from their distracted driving laws) and make a compelling argument based on information and not emotion. Don’t wait for RAC to get involved. And wear a tie 🙂 and leave the baseball cap with your call sign at home. (BTW I love my call-sign baseball cap. I just don’t wear it to business meetings….anymore.)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Peter West. Bookmark the permalink.

About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.

7 thoughts on “RAC – Bill 118 – And Stuff

  1. Frankly, I don’t have a preference to be rear-ended, or T-boned by a driver who is texting or talking on a cellphone, or by an amateur radio operator who is yakking away on 2 meters. Can someone please explain why the general public not be allowed cellphone use while driving and be required to pull over and stop their vehicle, and we amateurs be exempt?

  2. It’s an easy answer and you can prove it to yourself.

    Text on your IPhone or dial a number and your eyes are off the road.

    Pick up a microphone and talk and your eyes need never leave the road. I did a demo for Ministry of Transport staff and even they agreed.

    Driving and using a two-way radio hasn’t been an issue or contributed noticeably to a dramatic increase in traffic accidents in the last 100 years. Then comes texting cellphone drivers and the stats go through the roof. Amateur Radio operators got caught up in the government response to keep Ontario highways safe. We didn’t cause the problem of distracted driving and banning the use of hand-held microphones won’t solve it.

    Now if you’re elderly this might be a challenge and then perhaps you shouldn’t be driving at all.

  3. I disagree. Ones eyes being on the road, with one hand on the steering wheel while holding a microphone with the other hand and speaking into it, does not necessarily mean one is not distracted. I saw a program recently on television where it was demonstrated that simply listening to the car radio, and talking to passengers can lead to distraction.

    Show us the data with your reference to, “using a two-way radio hasn’t been an issue or contributed noticeably to a dramatic increase in traffic accidents in the last 100 years.”

    Your last sentence is simply silly and insulting.

  4. Paul;

    You can dissagree and I see your point. However, by the letter of the law, I can install and use a hands free device on my ham radio just like you can with your cell phone and be in full compliance with Bill 118. Bill 118 does NOT prevent use of a ham radio while driving! Infact, I have recently purchased and rec’vd just such a device which I hope to install in my car and test in the spring (when its warmer). The law doesnt say you cannot talk to your passenger, smoke a cigarette, eat a sandwich, or use your two way radio. You just cant hold it (cellphone or radio or microphone) in your hand. So, there may very well be a valid argument whereby “simply listening to the car radio, and talking to passengers can lead to distraction” but Bill 118 does not address that. I find it odd that you can hold a tims coffee or a sandwich in your hand while driving but not a two way microphone but thats my opinion. But that is not the arguement. Peter is very correct in that there are studies out there that show the distraction has to do with holding the cell phone up to your head and/or dialing/texting while driving. While it may also be a distraction, the act of the conversation itself is NOT what bill 118 is addressing. I can hold the mic in my hand while having 2 hands on the steering wheel at all times (like I see many drivers doing with a cigarette in their hand..both hands on the wheel…except when they take a puff of course). Being distracted by a conversation (passenger, two way radio, or on the AM/FM radio) comes under the careless driving law, not bill 118. Its sad to say but I see many drivers “under that influence” every day on the road to work. And no hands free law will make you a more concerted driver! Unfortunately, you may not agree with this, but this is how the law gets broken down into details by the lawyers. I would very much like to find copies of these studies that show safety with hand held microphones that have been used by many many other jurisdictions so that we can, as peter says, make an arguement with our local MP’s for an exemption. I belive the fair way to go is an exemption for any hand held microphone thats wired to a fixed installation two way radio (regardless of purpose..amateur, emergency service, or commercial user). That would be a simple and elegant fix to clean up this Bill.

  5. Hi John,

    I’m not arguing that Bill 118 indicates that one cannot listen to the radio, talk to passengers, smoke, drink, et al. We all know what the Bill is about.

    Like many, I have been a ham for more than a couple of decades (since 1970) and have enjoyed many aspects of the hobby, including mobile operation. Remember the GE Progline? Indeed, I had my Yaesu FT100 HF transceiver in my vehicle all summer.

    Just the same, though, studies have shown that doing anything but concentrating 100% on “driving” can, and often does, lead to distraction. Cam Wooly Distraction–not concentrating 100%–happens to be the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents. You hear it stated all the time by authorities. I believe that if one is holding a microphone in her/hand hand, and speaking into it, that person is not devoting 100% concentration to one’s driving. In fact, I also believe, as many others do, that operating one’s cellphone and/or transceiver, VOX or hands-free, is a distraction.

    The following has been gleaned from here:


    Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts:

    20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).

    Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)

    In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)

    The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)

    Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

    Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

    Why is it that we, the amateur radio fraternity, believe that we should be exempt from this legislation?


  6. Paul;

    You know what..I agree with you. This statement here:

    “I believe that if one is holding a microphone in her/hand hand, and speaking into it, that person is not devoting 100% concentration to one’s driving. In fact, I also believe, as many others do, that operating one’s cellphone and/or transceiver, VOX or hands-free, is a distraction”

    Is absolutely true. I see it every day on the road to and from work..and as I mentioned, its not just a cell phone..often its a razor, a cigarette, a sandwich or a coffee, or god knows what! However, as hams, we are simply trying to comply with the law. I think we need to push for the exemption of using a mic. However, if we cannot come together (or RAC cant formulate and execute a plan) to this end, I sure as heck dont intend to “rip my radio out of the car” as many many many hams have said they will do once the exemtion ends. I have a 25$ hands free solution that is completely compliant with the law. Bill 118 does NOT have to mean the end of mobile ham radio..thats really the point i’m trying to make. The “bad driver” or “distracted driver” (they often seem to go together) goes way beyond the cellphone/two way radio debate. Indeed I spent an hour of my work day yesterday trying to research some of the stats from the US Crash Causation website. It has tons of data on distracted driving and crashes and none of it is easily distilled either “For” or “against” our arguement. What I did find..plain as day…in the tons of data there is that nearly ANYTHING can cause a distraction. IF that distration is at the wrong time or wrong place, well your number is up and thats it. So you’re right..anything less than 100% attention to your driving is a problem. However, distracted and just plain “poor” dirving is commonplace. Looking at some of the new operating systems being put into the latest vehicles these days, I’d say cell phones and two way radios are the LEAST of our worries going forward! One final comment, I’d like to see way more enfocement of Bill 118. Just the other day York Region PD annouced a ticketing blitz on this (cell use while driving) and the related tv report on the 6pm news indicated just how blatent the disregard for this law is today. The net net here is that you can make a law, but if its not enforced its pretty useless…and cellphones (and two way radios for sure) are by far, not the only distraction we have to worry about when sharing the road with other drivers!

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