More than just a Ham radio blog.
is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Look Mam no hands!

Driving while distracted has been a regular topic of conversation amongst amateurs all around the world recently as more and more countries bring in legislation to clamp down on the number of motor vehicle accidents caused by mobile telephone users. Radio amateurs in some countries have been caught up in the legislation while some others have been left in limbo due to grey areas, which leave them unsure of their position when operating mobile transmitting equipment. In the UK radio hams using two-way radio are specifically exempted to the law that bans the use of mobile phones, but try explaining that to the nice PC Plod when he stops you. Even so we are in an almost unique position and it would be nice to think we could at least maintain that position and not have more restrictions placed upon us. Unfortunately lead by white van and taxi drivers the numbers of people openly using their hand held mobile phones while driving is even higher in the UK than before the restrictions were brought in. According to the Times on Line during the last twelve months more than 14,000 people were observed in London alone. A 2006 survey showed 2.6% of drivers used a mobile phone while driving, the implementation of restrictions brought that figure down to 1.4% but this year’s figures indicate 2.8% of us are flouting the law. The have been calls for higher fines, automatic driving bans and tougher regulations, including the banning of hands-free devices.

It was my hope that the previous legislation would have lead to a plethora of cheap hands-free equipment being available for use with two-way radio equipment and that manufacturers of mobile amateur radio equipment would have grabbed the bull by the horns, neither of these things has happened yet. Yaesu has one Blue Tooth enabled mobile rig and Waters and Stanton sell an add-on device that costs almost as much as a radio itself. It appears that like the general public manufacturing is not taking this problem seriously, not that government are backing up their rules either by enforcement or perhaps forcing all new cars to have hands-free connect capability. I suspect law enforcement feel that they have more important things worry about and a lot of them do not like the idea for booking someone for something very similar to what they were doing 30 seconds before they full them.

Personally I do not feel any more distracted by talking on amateur radio when driving than talking to someone in the car or listening to music or a pod-cast so I do not feel any further restrictions are necessary, but this is a problem that needs to be addressed before Mother State uses a sledge hammer to crack an egg once more. We need better hands free devices for our ham kit because what is on sale now is at best inadequate and we need the manufactures to respond by fitting hands-free connections to all mobile two-way equipment including amateur gear. Car manufactures should respond by Blue Tooth (or similar) enabling every car they sell.

I have Blue Tooth capability in my Land Rover Discovery and via a Tom Tom sat nav in my Vauxhall Corsa and the convenience and safety of being able to take a call with the push of one button compared to fumbling in a pocket, flipping open the phone and then trying to press the ‘accept’ button before the other party hangs up makes not having hands-free a real no brainer. Now if only it was so simple to link in my ham gear as well.

“I know the audio is low. There is a cop car behind and the mic is on my knee. Hold on, it’s okay he pulled some guy blogging on his Iphone.”

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