Author Topic: Distracted Driving Laws and Pending Legislation in New England.  (Read 5763 times)

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Offline W1RC

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Here is a summary of distracted driving laws and pending legislation in New England as of March 20th, 2014.

Currently the only New England state where mobile amateur radio operation is impacted by distracted driving laws is Connecticut which is as a result of tough changes quietly enacted in July 2013 that went into effect on October 1st.   Fines were increased to $150.00 for the first offence and, even worse, now that this is considered a moving violation with demerit points, insurance surcharges will most likely apply for three years.  You can't even use your hand-held portable when stopped in traffic or at a red light and, even worse, whether or not a ham can even use a hand-held microphone is questionable.  The law is still unclear! Some cops are writing citations and leaving it to the courts figure it out later.   It's a mess!  More about CT later.

Pending legislation in NH and VT:

Right here in the State of New Hampshire, home of our beloved NEAR-Fest, there is legislation currently before the NH State Legislature, Bill HB-1360, that deals with distracted driving.  This would have affected every amateur driving to the hamfest!  The Bill's original wording was very ambiguous and, thanks to Peter Stohrer, K1PJS, the NH Section Manager, the matter was addressed quickly and positively.  Several amateurs testified before the committee and, as a result, Bill HR-1360 was amended.  If it passes as worded, as expected, amateur radio operation will be exempt from the legislation.

A similar bill, H.62 is pending in Vermont.  Mitch, W1SJ, informed me that he testified in front of the Senate committee and that an exemption for amateur radio was written into the Bill.  The original draft legislation would have made amateur radio mobile operation illegal.   Had they not acted quickly and decisively the outcome may have been a lot different.

Fortunately, in these two states,  hobby advocates, including some ARRL field officials, were able to become involved early in the legislative process and provide critical input with positive results.  We all thank them for their efforts.  Consequently, as written, neither of these bills will affect amateur radio mobile operation in NH and VT.

More on Connecticut: It is most unfortunate that neither the League nor any other advocates for amateur radio were able to accomplish the same thing for radio amateurs in CT, ARRL headquarters's home state; where, as stated above, it is now illegal to use a "mobile electronic device" in a vehicle even when stopped for a red light or in heavy traffic except in case of emergency to contact law enforcement/public safety agencies.  What happened; were they caught sleeping or what?  Now it's too late; it's a done deal.  In the November 2013 issue of QST in the IT SEEMS TO US editorial, CEO Dave Sumner makes a feeble attempt to explain the situation and blame it on the federal "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21 (Public Law 112-141) that provides funding for a new Distracted Driving Grant Program to encourage states to enact and enforce distracted driving laws. However, in order to get the federal money states are required to be "in compliance".  Sumner doesn't make any comment on how other states were able to pass legislation that presumably is compliant with the federal law and exempts amateur radio operators at the same time.  If I lived in CT I'd be hyellified!!!.

MA, RI and ME also have distracted legislation in place but are primarily targeted at texting while driving as they should, particularly young and inexperienced drivers.  None of these affect amateur radio operation in a vehicle but if you have an accident while operating your vehicle, you may be charged with distracted driving and be held responsible which pretty much would apply anywhere such laws are in effect.

A Google search on "distracted driving" produces several sites with digests of state and provincial laws in effect but these are generally woefully out of date and consequently of little value.  It is recommended that travelers check with each state's DMV web site prior to leaving home for up-to-date information as it is changing constantly.

But Connecticut...................................ya blew it!  Now try and fix it.

73,

MisterMike, W1RC
Still operating mobile legally!!!


Offline K1EXE

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Re: Distracted Driving Laws and Pending Legislation in New England.
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2014, 10:32:04 AM »
Hi Mike,

A couple of years ago when the legislature in CT was considering the distracted driving law, several state hams go together and worked with a senator and various committees to add language to the bill that exempted hams from the law. The law was passed and signed but then several months later the state applied for federal funding under a program to fight distracted driving and was told that the existing law was not compliant with federal regulations. The legislation was then amended to its current form.

The link is to a article from QST written by David Sumner the CEO of the ARRL explaining the situation. I point this out to you because you mentioned a couple of other states in New England where hams were working with legislators and I would hope that they would be able to find a way to exempt hams and avoid the pitfall that CT fell into.

Here is a link that should work:

http://www.arrl.org/files/file/QST/This%20Month%20in%20QST/November%202013/It%20Seems%20to%20US.pdf

73 de K1EXE,

Bill

Offline W1RC

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Re: Distracted Driving Laws and Pending Legislation in New England.
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2014, 10:34:01 AM »
Bill:

Thank you for sending this along.  I am assuming you were listening to Warren, W1GUD and I discussing this matter on the air earlier. 

I also assume that you are in CT.  I am wondering, does anyone really know what is the definition of a "mobile electronic device" in CT?  Does it apply to a transceiver permanantly mounted in the vehicle and the only component actually held in hand is the microphonium?

To my way of thinking that is not a "mobile electronic device".  But some, including law enforcement, will argue that a microphone IS a "mobile electronic device" which no one can deny is held in the hand. There's no doubt tthe law is poorly and ambiguously worded.   

I would imagine if you could operate your radio with a hands-free device you would be legal.  But a headset might be more of a distraction than holding a mic.  Whatever the scenario, all radio amateurs driving in states with such laws would be wise to carry a copy of their state's legislation available online to show the officer just in case they are stopped.  Cops have thousands of laws to enforce but can read and it you keep your cool and explain your case politely you may be able to resolve it favorably on the spot while educating the officer at the same time.  Trust me,  this is a lot easier and less costly than going to court.

As far as Sumner's claim that the CT law was amended so as to comply with the federal legislation, why is it that other states seem to have distracted driving legislation that is "compliant" while exempting radio amateurs?  Don't they have any smart young lawyers working as legislative aides in CT with a lot of impoot as to how laws are written?  Perhaps they are all working for the insurance companies screwing policyholders or lobbying toady politicians against decent health care legislation.  Whatever they are doing it is not in the interests of the amateur radio operators that operate motor vehicles in CT. 

I am quite certain NH, ME, VT, MA and RI all want that NHTSA grant money just as badly as CT but they were smart enough to listen to their constituents and made their laws "compliant" without having to throw amateur radio amateurs under the bus in order to grab some of Uncle Sap's dollars.

This amending bill in CT was quietly introduced and was signed into law last summer when nobody was looking.  Personally I think they didn't see the bullet coming until it hit them right between the eyes.  They missed it completely.  They were all probably all wrapped up thinking about their vacations, the big paychecks they receive as well as the upcoming 100th anniversary celebrations and how much they are going to enjoy the spotlight on center stage.  All I know is that in their home state it is against the law to operate a portable and possibly any radio while in the driver's seat......

Well guys and gals, the bottom line is, if you're planning on going to the National Convention in Hartford this summer better play it safe and hang the mic up as you enter Connecticut. If you don't you might get yourself a $150.00 ticket, demerit points plus an insurance surcharge for the next three years.  CT State Police cruisers are all low profile, unmarked and usually when you see 'em the red and blue strobe lights are flashing and it's too late; you're bagged.

Maybe it's time for these old farts in Newington who have been there too long to retire and make way for new blood who won't let things like this pass by unnoticed until its too late.

In this instance Massachusetts is definitely a better place to be than in Connecticut.  And that speaks volumes.

For more,information go to http://handsfreeinfo.com/connecticut-cell-phone-laws-legislation/

73,

MrMike, W1RC

Connecticut's Distracted Deiving Law

      Sec. 14-296aa. Use of hand-held mobile telephones and mobile electronic devices by motor vehicle operators and school bus drivers prohibited or restricted. Exceptions. Penalties. Amounts remitted to municipality. (a) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:

      (1) "Mobile telephone" means a cellular, analog, wireless or digital telephone capable of sending or receiving telephone communications without an access line for service.

      (2) "Using" or "use" means holding a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user's ear.

      (3) "Hand-held mobile telephone" means a mobile telephone with which a user engages in a call using at least one hand.

      (4) "Hands-free accessory" means an attachment, add-on, built-in feature, or addition to a mobile telephone, whether or not permanently installed in a motor vehicle, that, when used, allows the vehicle operator to maintain both hands on the steering wheel.

      (5) "Hands-free mobile telephone" means a hand-held mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of such hand-held mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand, whether or not the use of either hand is necessary to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone.

      (6) "Engage in a call" means talking into or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone, but does not include holding a hand-held mobile telephone to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone.

      (7) "Immediate proximity" means the distance that permits the operator of a hand-held mobile telephone to hear telecommunications transmitted over such hand-held mobile telephone, but does not require physical contact with such operator's ear.

      (8 )  "Mobile electronic device" means any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more persons, including a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, equipment that is capable of playing a video game or a digital video disk, or equipment on which digital photographs are taken or transmitted, or any combination thereof, but does not include any audio equipment or any equipment installed in a motor vehicle for the purpose of providing navigation, emergency assistance to the operator of such motor vehicle or video entertainment to the passengers in the rear seats of such motor vehicle.


      (b) (1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and subsections (c) and (d) of this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a highway, as defined in section 14-1, while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call or while using a mobile electronic device while such vehicle is in motion. An operator of a motor vehicle who types, sends or reads a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while such vehicle is in motion shall be in violation of this section. (2) An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while such vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaging in a call within the meaning of this section. The presumption established by this subdivision is rebuttable by evidence tending to show that the operator was not engaged in a call. (3) The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a hand-held mobile telephone or a mobile electronic device, unless otherwise provided by law. (4) Subdivision (1) of this subsection does not apply to: (A) The use of a hand-held mobile telephone for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: An emergency response operator; a hospital, physician's office or health clinic; an ambulance company; a fire department; or a police department, or (B) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties and within the scope of their employment: A peace officer, as defined in subdivision (9) of section 53a-3, a firefighter or an operator of an ambulance or authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, or a member of the armed forces of the United States, as defined in section 27-103, while operating a military vehicle, or (C) the use of a hands-free mobile telephone.

      (c) No person shall use a hand-held mobile telephone or other electronic device, including those with hands-free accessories, or a mobile electronic device while operating a moving school bus that is carrying passengers, except that this subsection does not apply to (1) a school bus driver who places an emergency call to school officials, or (2) the use of a hand-held mobile telephone as provided in subparagraph (A) of subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of this section.

      (d) No person under eighteen years of age shall use any hand-held mobile telephone, including one with a hands-free accessory, or a mobile electronic device while operating a moving motor vehicle on a public highway, except as provided in subparagraph (A) of subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of this section.

      (e) Except as provided in subsections (b) to (d), inclusive, of this section, no person shall engage in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such vehicle on any highway, as defined in section 14-1.

      (f) Any law enforcement officer who issues a summons for a violation of subsection (b), (c), (d) or (i) of this section shall record, on any summons form issued in connection with the matter, the specific nature of any distracted driving behavior observed by such officer that contributed to the issuance of such summons.

      (g) Any person who violates subsection (b) of this section shall be fined one hundred dollars for a first violation, one hundred fifty dollars for a second violation and two hundred dollars for a third or subsequent violation.

      (h) Any person who violates subsection (c) or (d) of this section shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars.

      (i) An operator of a motor vehicle who commits a moving violation, as defined in subsection (a) of section 14-111g, while engaged in any activity prohibited under subsection (e) of this section shall be fined one hundred dollars in addition to any penalty or fine imposed for the moving violation.

      (j) The state shall remit to a municipality twenty-five per cent of the amount received with respect to each summons issued by such municipality for a violation of this section. Each clerk of the Superior Court or the Chief Court Administrator, or any other official of the Superior Court designated by the Chief Court Administrator, shall, on or before the thirtieth day of January, April, July and October in each year, certify to the Comptroller the amount due for the previous quarter under this subsection to each municipality served by the office of the clerk or official.

      (P.A. 05-159, S. 1-7; 05-220, S. 2, 3; P.A. 06-196, S. 284; P.A. 09-54, S. 1; P.A. 10-32, S. 51, 52; 10-109, S. 1.)

      History: P.A. 05-220 amended Subsec. (a) to make definitions applicable to Subsecs. (c) and (d) and add new Subdiv. (8) defining "mobile electronic device", amended Subsec. (b) to add references to a mobile electronic device in Subdivs. (1) and (3) and delete exemption for "the operator of a taxi cab, tow truck or bus without passengers" in Subdiv. (4)(B) and amended Subsec. (c) to make prohibition applicable to the use of a mobile electronic device and make a technical change and amended Subsec. (d) to apply prohibition to a person under 18 years of age rather than to a person who holds a learner's permit or any holder of a motor vehicle license subject to the requirements of Sec. 14-36(d) and make prohibition applicable to the use of a mobile electronic device; P.A. 06-196 made technical changes, effective June 7, 2006; P.A. 09-54 amended Subsec. (b)(4) to add members of the armed forces, effective May 21, 2009; P.A. 10-32 made technical changes in Subsecs. (b) and (e), effective May 10, 2010; P.A. 10-109 amended Subsec. (b)(1) to establish violation re operator of vehicle in motion who types, sends or reads text message with hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device, made technical changes in Subsecs. (b) and (e), amended Subsec. (g) to replace fine of not more than $100 and provision suspending fine for first-time violator who acquires hands-free accessory with fine of $100 for first violation, $150 for second violation and $200 for third or subsequent violation, and added Subsec. (j) to require state to remit to municipalities 25% of amount received by state for each summons issued by such municipality.