Given the concern that many hams have regarding the new “Distracted Driving Law” that went into effect in New York this past July, particularly since the law increased the penalty to 5 points on a license, I recently asked the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Counsel’s office for an explanation of both the cell phone and distracted driving laws and how they apply to hams.

The opinion, is attached.  I suggest that you read it thoroughly.  It’s very detailed but simply put, it says the following:

  1. The use of two-way radios that are not connected to a public switched telephone service does not violate the “Cell Phone Law.”  Therefore, operating a ham radio does not violate the law (Section 1225-c).
  2. If the equipment in the car is not capable of violating the distracted driving law (including sending text messages, pictures, e-mail, other electronic data, etc.), then the operator is not in violation of the “Distracted Driving Law” (Section 1225-d).
  3. Even if the equipment is capable of violating the law (including sending text messages, pictures, e-mail, other electronic data, etc.), as long as it’s not used in such a manner the operator of the equipment is not violating the “Distracted Driving Law” (Section 1225-d).

In other words, if you are just talking on your radio, you are not in violation of the law.

Please understand that the opinion carries the disclaimer that it is not binding upon prosecutors, law enforcement, or the judiciary.  You may still be stopped, issued a summons, and have to appear in court to plead your case.  However, the DMV opinion carries a lot of weight and should be used in preparing a defense should you receive a summons

Feel free to print out this opinion, but understand that it is not a license to be stupid!  Let’s hope that you never need to use it.