Ontario distracted driving legislation and Amateur Radio

Ontario distracted driving legislation and Amateur Radio

Like I said in the writeup, the exemption remains in place until Jan. 1, 2018, so mobile operating is allowed.

Calling All Ontario-based Amateur Radio Clubs and ARES Groups

January 1, 2017 – (e-Laws currency date)
December 17, 2015 – December 31, 2016
January 1, 2013 – December 16, 2015
September 6, 2012 – December 31, 2012
October 26, 2009 – September 5, 2012
September 29, 2009 – October 25, 2009

January 1, 2017 – (e-Laws currency date) December 17, 2015 – December 31, 2016 January 1, 2013 – December 16, 2015 September 6, 2012 – December 31, 2012 October 26, 2009 – September 5, 2012 September 29, 2009 – October 25, 2009

As you may well know, Amateur Radio operators in Ontario are enjoying a time-limited exemption under the Highway Traffic Act's distracted driving regulations, allowing us the use of mobile 2-way communications apparatus until January 1, 2018.

However, that day is approaching faster than we think. Amateur Radio operators have been utilizing mobile communications equipment safely and responsibly since before cellular telephony was popular and affordable. In addition, the equipment that can be found in the vehicles of thousands of hams across Canada translates to an instantly available means of communications in time of disaster - a network of no cost to the served agencies who may depend on it.

Every other Province and Territory in Canada has recognized the value of this fact, amongst others, and have granted us permanent exemptions in their laws respectively. Now it's time to ensure that Ontario does the same.

I am spear-heading the effort to lobby the MTO to make the exemption under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) Regulation 366/09 permanent to all certified Amateur Radio operators, but I need help. I am looking to compile the following documentation from as many individual sources as possible:

Priority 1 - Letters from Served Agencies - Government: I would like every club and ARES/Emcomm group in Ontario that has a good relationship with the agencies they provide auxiliary communications to (i.e.: municipalities, emergency services), to get signed letters from people within those agencies (i.e.: elected municipal representatives, members of emergency services, CEMC/PEMC) outlining the vital importance of Amateur Radio in their emergency communications strategy/strategies.

Priority 2 - Letters from Served Agencies - NGOs: Similarly to the above, I would like letters from Non-Governmental Organizations (i.e.: relief agencies, hospitals) outlining the services that Amateur Radio operators and organizations provide to them, and their importance to their operations in time of need.

Priority 3 - Letters from NFPs: In addition, I would like letters from Not-For-Profit groups that your club or organization provide communications to on a volunteer basis, emergency-related or not (i.e.: parades, runs/walks, special events) detailing what you provide for them and their importance.

The letters I'm requesting do not have to reference the HTA or distracted driving - I simply want to put as many letters in front of the MTO as possible outlining our importance to the municipalities, NGOs and NFPs we serve. I believe it will be this documentation, above all else, that will help secure our permanent exemption and put this matter to rest once and for all. I would like to have all of this documentation in hand by no later than March 31, 2016 so that I can assess what we have and plan our next moves.

If you should have any questions, comments or concerns, I would love to hear from you, and am reachable by any of the means listed below.

vy 73 de VA3QR

Phil A. McBride, VA3QR / VA3KPJ, CEC
Director - Ontario South, Radio Amateurs of/du Canada
Mobile: +1 (416) 884-0480
E-Mail: va3qr@rac.ca


Ontario distracted driving legislation and Amateur Radio

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90h08#BK139 (section 78.1)
https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/090366 (Section 13.(1))

Richard Ferch, VE3IAY/VE3KI
RAC Regulatory Affairs Officer


  1. Anonymous19:09

    Let me ask the simple question for discussion:

    Why should we be exempt? Any form of communication that distracts us from driving is dangerous. Any form of communication that is related to an emergency, response etc, should NOT require driving but pulling over and then do the communication.

    What is wrong with us pursuing handsfree operation in the car. We are in the business of innovation anyway. Any of the priority letters asked above do NOT require "driving" at the same time. Isn't it time we stop pretending we are doing something "sacred" while driving and get with reality. What examples are we setting for the rest of the community, teens, other drivers if we play around around with radios, frequencies, mikes etc while driving. No contact is worth the consequence of distracted driving.

    The post by VE3GTB speaks volumes. Pull over! No need for exemptions. We can do better and set examples!

    Again, lets have a discussion if you can restraint yourself from "flaming"

    73, Stefan, VE4NSA

    1. Anonymous19:09

      Because there ARE situations where using it while driving is necessary in emergency situations. If you don't know/believe that, join your local ARES group. Not to mention, responsible hams don't tune while driving. They simply hold the mic and talk, which I think is very different than a cell phone. Mostly because you can just listen %80 of the time, and jump in with comments here and there. In my local area, there is a repeater with a commute group who talk on their way to and from work every weekday. These guys have never had any accidents while driving. As a matter of fact, before saying using radio while driving is dangerous, I'd like to see the stats on vehicular accidents while using amateur radio. I don't think I've EVER seen a case of an accident caused by using radio. As I mentioned, I feel that radio use and cell phone use are very different, and require different levels of concentration.

      Just my two cents. I think the exemption should be permanent.

    2. Anonymous19:10

      Why should we be exempt?

      Why not?

      Commercial drivers (couriers, taxies, tow truck operators) are exempt, and they receive no special training on how to operate radio apparatus while operating a motor vehicle - and in the case of a trucker or a tow operator, a vehicle with more knobs and dials that I have in my hams shack. Additionally, every other jurisdiction in Canada has exempted Amateur Radio operators from their respective "distracted driving" laws. The one Province that didn't initially changed their mind a short while. At the time of the initial writing of this legislation, the Premier (to my US friends, this is the equiv. of a state Governor) and the Minister of Transportation said they were going to go with whatever the rest of the country decided, and they seem to have spoken.

      For those who say that we should only worry about operating in time of emergency, I don't believe this makes sense. If we are not made exempt, then hams are going to remove the mobile gear from their vehicles in order to avoid the appearance of an offence, and that gear won't be readily available if/when it's needed. As well, if we don't actually operate mobile from time to time to keep those skills honed, then what good are we to the agencies we've agreed to serve? Yes, there is some handsfree gear for our radios out there. I've used some of the out-of-the-box stuff, I've created a couple of my own solutions. They just don't do it, and you still have to push a button to activate a PTT - VOX while mobile doesn't work (or at least it doesn't work for me in my '98 Cherokee).

      If you don't want to operate mobile, then don't. If you do, then do. But all of Canada's other governments have spoken (and, from what I understand, all US states who've enacted similar laws - I'm open to correction on that; I have a hard enough time following my own country's laws) and they've decided that we're worth exempting from these laws. As a representative of Radio Amateurs of Canada, I'm just striving to ensure that Ontario comes to the same conclusion.

      Phil McBride, VA3QR/VA3KPJ
      Director - Ontario South, Radio Amateurs of/du Canada

  2. Anonymous19:13

    The answer is: Don't "fix" what doesn't need fixing. Yes, there IS a problem with the use of personal devices in vehicles. BUT let us look at WHEN and WHAT devices began to CAUSE this distracted driving. The culprit is the CELLPHONE, and not until this device became prolific, particularly with texting, did this thing raise its ugly head. Now. If the two way radio was truly a cause, then let's remember the CB radio which became wildly popular during the 70's. There were MILLIONS of these things being installed by average Americans (and I am speaking to how it applies to the USA here), none of whom had even the slightest prior experience with radio. During that time of almost universal CB usage in mobiles, this issue did not even twitch an eyebrow. Why? BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ISSUE TO RAISE. This is due to the fact that, tho a cellphone IS a radio, its very nature has entirely different effects on the user. Namely, SIMPLEX vs DUPLEX operation insofar as the operator is concerned (and we aren't talking about repeaters here). A two way radio, insofar as the op is concerned is simplex; that is, a single stream of info comes IN to the operator/listener. The driver/operator/listener listens to this info the same he hears a news broadcast or music. He has time to process this info, THEN respond BACK in the same linear (simplex) fashion. This process does not unnecessarily overtax the driver's ability to drive the car. The cellphone is different because of its duplex operation, and it is this difference that INVOLVES the driver instantly and completely. The driver must now receive, process, AND RESPOND RIGHT NOW!! This two-track flow of info in both directions is what causes the distraction, for by the very nature of duplex it requires more attention to the conversation, and takes away attention from driving. So. IF two way radio use had been a problem, then it would have done so during the CB craze. Yet I challenge you to find cases of "distracted driving" that occurred on any regular basis BEFORE the cellphone. And even the very prolific cellphone useage itself vs the use of two way radio tells us that the numbers of cellphones themselves add to the statistics. It is the cellphone that is at fault here, not the two way radio.

    Next. Here in the US, I believe you are going to find that any such laws restricting the licensed use of two way can be challenged (and should) due to 1) existing FCC rules, 2) court precedent. First of all, local Bubbas have no jurisdiction over the use of a two way radio. That is by, of course, our FCC. Second, there is well-documented FCC SUPPORT for the usage of mobile two way radio, and FCC even filed a friend-of the-court brief in the case of states and local Bubbas seizing licensed two way radios. FCC (and I can produce that brief off the 'web if needed) went to great length to praise and support mobile amateur radio, and made it very clear their position. Such precedent would be, I am convinced, very hard to overcome as that position was clearly stated IN Federal court.

    In summary, it is NOT the two way radio that is the culprit here, but the cellphone. While I have no real objections to wireless, or remote, mikes, ultimately it is still an unnecessary intrusion into personal choice and our private activities. The two way radio does NOT, and never has, contribute to distracted driving in but a very insignificant way. Anything can be a distraction if you let it. If you feel that you aren't competent, or comfortable, using a mike in a a mobile, then DON'T. I've used mobile radio for 50 years with not ONE single accident attributable to two way radio, and I RESENT some goody two-shoes gub'mint clown who knows nothing about two way radio punishing, or restricting, me over what someone else is causing. Punishing the two way user by association is like spanking the baby because there was a hole in the tub, and the water leaked out! "Tain't the baby's fault!!!


Thanks for your comments, Comments may take a day to show up

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.