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RAC Bulletin 2010-039E - Distracted Driving Legislation Continues to be on Provincial Agendas; New Brunswick introduces Legislation Banning Cell Phone and Two Way Radio Use

Provinces have a responsibility to legislate requirements respecting road safety on public roadways and the virtually ubiquitous use of cell phones for voice and texting communication has created new challenges for legislators. RAC agrees with the need for provinces to address cell phone use.

Most provinces [eg. Nova Scotia, Manitoba, BC, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador to name five] have chosen not to restrict the operation of mobile amateur radio equipment during driving. These governments have recognized the value of amateur radio to their citizens. Amateur radio has served the citizens of Canada during such emergencies such as floods, dangerous weather and ice storms, in support of public events such as Marathons and in support of agencies such as the Red Cross and a variety of provincial and municipal agencies across Canada. The support provided by amateur radio is frequent, freely given and in the highest standard of public service.

On November 24th New Brunswick introduced a bill to control cell phone and “hand-operated electronic device” use while driving and this legislation will prevent amateurs from using our mobile radios while driving. RAC agrees with the intent of the legislation but has pointed out in a December 9th letter from the President of RAC to the New Brunswick Minister of Public Safety, Mr. Robert Trevors: [excerpts]

'Radio Amateurs have passed demanding examinations set by the Industry Canada to earn their authority to operate equipment. Federal radio regulations specifically permit Radio Amateurs to establish mobile stations. By tradition, Radio Amateurs are public-spirited citizens, who regularly volunteer their time, skill, equipment and energy for everything from pubic events to providing communication in time of emergency. Radio Amateurs are often at their most useful in emergency situations when using their equipment installed in their personal vehicles. Radio Amateurs in New Brunswick regularly and without fail respond to your citizen’s needs whether it is to help municipalities fighting flooding along the St. John River, Marathons or police on Halloween patrol you will find amateur radio operators. Banning mobile Amateur Radios for day to day use will mean that there are no experienced Amateur Radio Operators and no mobile radios available when there is a time of need. Eliminating the use of Federally Certified Radio Amateurs to use mobile radio equipment will not increase public safety but decrease it.'

Third reading on the bill is expected during the week of December 13 to 17. The Bill permits the government to proclaim the legislation at a time of its choosing anytime thereafter.

It is preferable that any exclusion for Amateur Radio operators occurs in the legislation itself and RAC has so requested. There are provisions for a regulated exclusion for Radio Amateurs in Section 265.05 [f] of Bill 4. “The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may make regulations exempting, with or without conditions, certain classes or types of devices or motor vehicles, or certain classes of persons, … “. Regulations would follow the passing of the bill and hopefully before the proclamation of the Bill into law. Legislation [Acts] are passed by Legislators while Regulations are approved by Cabinet [both require royal assent through the Lt. Governor].

RAC will:

  • Continue to work with Amateurs in New Brunswick to lobby the Province for exclusion for Amateur Radio Operators during mobile operations.
  • Continue to work with amateurs in New Brunswick to encourage communities and served agencies to remind government of the value of amateur radio in all its forms [mobile, fixed, or portable].
  • Offer to work with the Government of the Province of New Brunswick to help ensure the highest quality legislation and regulation which will enhance public safety.

Amateurs and Clubs should take opportunities in their own provinces to have served agencies [public or private agencies and groups] remind provincial authorities of the continued value and relevancy of Amateur Radio. In today’s world of smart phones and the internet it is sometimes easy for officials to overlook the value of Amateur Radio and our provision of a distinctive and valuable public service.

Geoff Bawden VE4BAW
President and Chair RAC