Highfields Amateur Radio Club
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police car with flashing lightsMobile Operation and the Law.
By Brian, MW0GKX.

After listening to much debate about the legal standpoint on mobile operation in relation to
the mobile phone law I have decided to research the laws and put "fingers to keyboard"
to try and clarify the situation.
This page deals with UK laws. If you are not in the UK please check locally for the laws that apply.

Firstly, let's take a look at the law:
for England, Scotland & Wales or for Northern Ireland (external links to legislation.gov.uk)
specifically excludes two way radios: "other than a two-way radio", i.e. amateur radio transceivers. So it would seem that all is well and you can use your radio whilst driving. Not necessarily!

I have had confirmation that the offence of using a hand held phone whilst in control of a vehicle extends to parked with the engine running! So if you are making a call park up and switch the engine off.

If you are stopped by an officer of the law because you were "using a mobile phone" a polite word pointing out that it is not a mobile phone but an amateur radio transceiver can reap good rewards, especially if your driving was impeccable at the time.

Some people advise against pointing out that it's not a phone to the officer, only bringing up that fact in court. This course of action could lead to a charge of "wasting police time" as mentioning the fact that it is a two way radio at the time of the "offence" could have saved a lot of time, paperwork and a court appearance for the officer. Maximum penalty for wasting police time is (at time of writing) six months' imprisonment and/or a level 4 fine (£2,500) and, of course, a criminal record.

a ticket being written

If the officer is adamant that it is a phone and decides to issue a ticket, make sure he makes a note of the fact that you have informed him otherwise (I believe there is space on the ticket for your reply on being issued with the ticket). If you decide to fight the ticket in court, you did everything correctly at the time and the note made at the time is evidence.

If, however, the officer stops you because, in his professional opinion, you were driving "carelessly", "without due consideration" or "dangerously", because of using the radio (or phone), even if you are using one of the commercially available hands free kits, you could be charged with that offence.

Penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment.

Update: 25 Oct 08. Since August 2008 death caused by careless driving can lead to imprisonment for up to 5 years.
Any distraction that could have been avoided, including but not limited to;

In fact ANYTHING that takes the driver's attention away from the road, and which the court feels was avoidable, that resulted in an accident causing death.

Arguing that the radio is excluded from the mobile phone legislation will have no bearing on the case. "Careless driving", "Driving Without Due Consideration" or "Dangerous Driving" are just that and your defence that the radio is not a mobile phone could actually prove the case for the prosecution, showing that you were doing something else rather than concentrating on your driving!

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