Does Revised Driving Law Restrict Hams?

An amendment to BIll 1785 in California may have an impact on Hams within the state.

In the bills previous version, an exception was included to allow use of Amateur Radio equipment under the law prohibiting motorists from using electronic wireless communication devices to write, send, or read a text-based communication while in motion, unless the device was configured for voice-operated and hands-free operation. 

The new law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, omits the Amateur Radio exemption, and contains the text “prohibits a motorist from driving “while holding and operating” a hand-held wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communication device, as defined by the code. “

The amended bill does “authorizes a driver to operate such devices mounted on a vehicle’s windshield like a GPS or on the dashboard or center console “in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road,” if the driver can activate or deactivate a feature or function “with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the finger.”

The new law appears to have a lack of clarity as to what is allowed.

A first offense would incur a $20 base fine and $50 for subsequent offenses.
ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, said there are two principal ways to protect Amateur Radio in this type of legislation. “One is by sufficiently narrowly defining prohibited activity so as to exclude Amateur Radio,” he said. “The other is to create specific exemptions where the definitions are confusing. This new statute is an example of bad legislative draftsmanship. It creates a motor vehicle law with citations issued for certain activity that includes the words ‘but is not limited to’ in the language defining the violation.”
In addition to scrutinizing the language of the revision, ARRL will be consulting with Field Organization officials in California to determine its next steps.