Crawford Amateur Radio Society
Supporting Amateur Radio in NW PA since 1972

Supporting Amateur Radio in NWPA since 1972

Crawford Amateur Radio Society

Senate Bill #37 info

his message is directed only to our ARRL Western & Eastern PA section
members to alert you to a serious legal issue returning to the
A new law amending the PA Vehicle Code, pending a vote for
some years, has reappeared recently and passed before the PA House of
A new distracted driving bill presents a serious
problem for operating any radios which require a handheld device,
whether HT or a microphone. The law has exemptions for hands free
devices so cell phones are safe with such common technology as a
Bluetooth earbud mike or the ubiquitous speaker phones in cars today.
Since the bill was amended again in the PA house, it is going back to
the PA Senate for a re-vote in about or week or so. The Senate passed
the original bill some time ago.
I was involved in urging lawmakers to add an exemption for ham radio
and helped add to our reasonable exemption language over 3 years ago.
It survived until just before the latest vote which stripped out our
exemption but left in exemptions for commercial drivers including truck
drivers, bus drivers and public transportation.
Also, emergency vehicle operators may continue to use a radio or phone while driving only if actually being used by an emergency responder and only while in an emergency vehicle.
And before some of you ask as you have, this does not
describe any ham. Any other non-exempt two-way radio user is prohibited
from holding a microphone or HT while driving or even stopped at a light
or stop sign. You must pull over to use your radio. Reporting an actual
emergency with our radios is exempt as is use of a handheld phone while
driving if reporting an emergency.
I do not believe these prohibitions were an intended consequence,
though some believe hams are no better drivers that the public and
should not have an exemption. But all other FCC Part 90 radio users,
utilities radios, volunteer EMS and firefighters, and GMRS Part 95 users
are likewise effected. Few of our radios presently have handsfree
devices for PTT use, though some are emerging. That will require more
years in development however.
While it may take some time to address this, we have very little. For
now, I suggest you write to your PA state senator and copy your PA
representative for your districts. You can find them online.
Suggest they delay the approval and get more input from the volunteer responders in the Emergency Services effected by this and also The National
Association for Amateur Radio, our ARRL. Such subject matter experts can
best help guide the committee to make a better and reasonable law which
still protects the public from the distracted driving caused by using
interactive mobile devices while driving. That is the evil they seek to
regulate. Not the two way radios we all use safely. More precise
definitions of the different technology can solve the ambiguity.
Caution though, do not argue that the law is generally unreasonable or
denigrate the motives of the proponents of the bill. We know they mean
well. We know they generally like hams and emergency responders. Who
among us has not seen distracted driving from texting or looking down at
a cell device while driving? I see it every day.
The issue is really well meaning legislators are not properly defining
the technology they seek to regulate while driving. Also, some in the
past claimed that the law does not apply to ham radio as we are
emergency responders of some sort. That is a stretch – please avoid
such arguments.
Even emergency responders responding to a 911 call in
their personal vehicles (as I do several hundred time a year) are
prohibited from using their public safety radio service HTs or mobile
radios, even if attached to the vehicle, if it requires holding
something to use the device. That cannot really be intended, but many
agree with my professional analysis of the effect of the imprecise
language as passed.
Please search for SB 37 in the PA government website and see the latest
marked-up bill. It will take me some time to get a “clean” version
of the marked-up bill posted somewhere, but I will announce where we can
post it when my office staff cleans up the markups, strike-outs and
underlining so you can see more easily what language is left. What was
changed or stricken out is evident in the official posted markups
online. You will see our long-lasting exemption taken out.
Your emails and/or phone calls to YOUR Representatives and Senators in
PA are effective. A well constructed personal email is likely the best
bet. They get read by staff. Each single response counts. It will give
legislators a pause to think and inquire further. After all, this bill
has been drifting around for some years. A few more weeks delay is
warranted. I have spoken with many about this bill and its effect. If
you have a different opinion or any suggestion, please let me know. Time
is short.
73, and I will see you on the radio. But maybe not while mobile.
Bob Famiglio, K3RF
Director, ARRL Atlantic Division


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