Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guess I have heard everything

I have often heard it said that, "If you listen to the radio long enough, you will hear everything." I think that in 30+ years as a Ham, that finally came true the other night.

I was driving home from work and had the Icom in scan mode. It settled on one of the repeaters in New Jersey that is linked for statewide coverage. I heard a Ham relating the following story.

He was driving through a certain town and got stopped by a police officer for going over the speed limit. He was also on the radio at the time. In New Jersey, when you get a speeding ticket a certain "point value" goes on your driving record, depending on how far above the speed limit you were traveling. If you accumulate more than 12 points in three years, your license to drive is subject to revocation. The Ham must have offered some kind of sob story and the officer must have felt sorry for this guy, or something, because he offered him a choice. He had to issue a summons; but was willing to avoid giving the guy the points for speeding if he would take a ticket for using an electronic device while driving. This is New Jersey's cell phone law. If you use a cell phone (other than a non-hands on system) while driving, you get a fine. The Ham agreed to the cell phone ticket instead of the points.

What the officer didn't know, it seems, is that there is a specific exemption for Amateur Radio operators built into that law. As far as the law is written, Amateur Radio is NOT cell phone communications and is therefore permissible while driving.

So our friendly "lead foot" Ham was explaining to his friend on the air how he is going to court to challenge and possibly have the driving offense expunged on the technicality.

I was perturbed. First off, the police officer did this guy a favor. Even though Joe Ham broke the law by speeding, the police officer gave him a break by charging him with a lesser offense with a smaller fine and no points against his driving record. Joe Ham freely admitted his guilt and freely admitted that he was going to try and get out of this on the technicality that the police officer was probably unaware of. How about taking responsibility for your actions and taking your medicine like a man? As it is, he should be eternally grateful to the police officer for not issuing him the speeding points.

Secondly, if this guy's argument works; and he does beat the ticket .... how is that police officer going to treat other Hams in the future? He will have gotten burned by one of us once. Think that's not going to reside in the old memory banks for a long time? Think this police officer is going to be sympathetic to some other Ham in the future? I doubt it.

This kind of thing makes us all look bad. Fortunately, the friend that "lead foot" was talking to on the repeater advised him against his planned course of action. The friend was trying to be the voice of reason and common sense; but somehow I don't think his advice will be heeded. It seems that anything goes these days.

I will keep an ear open to this repeater system over the next few weeks. I will be very interested to see how this turns out.

72 de Larry W2LJ

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Myself, I'm more irritated by the police officer writing a citation on a law he doesn't know well enough. He shouldn't be writing citations if he doesn't fully understand the law for which they apply. And perhaps his speeding ticket would have been petty for being only 5mph over the speed limit. I think speed limits are a bit low in some places given the safety of modern vehicles.

We have an exemption here in California for the same type of cell phone law and I've heard a ham who was harassed by officers for talking on his radio. They threatened to ticket him twice while stopped at a light if he didn't put the mic down. He complied. I wouldn't have, though I have the ARRL printout in my glove box on the law.

Don't get me wrong, I'll take the consequences to my actions. My last speeding ticket was in the Napa wine country 4 years ago or so. Had two slow cars in front of me on a two lane highway before a neat twisty section of road I wanted to run unencumbered. One passed the other and took off but I wanted to pass that one too, so I twisted the grip and pushed the RPM's up above 12,000 easily taking that vehicle as well. Emerging from behind the hill to the left was a CHP officer in full sprint to his car, just jumping in and hitting his lights as I passed. I waited for him to catch up (good thing, he called in the plane as I guess the sportbike guys run) and told him I pass as quickly as possible to get back in my lane and the one vehicle accelerated on me. He was nice and wrote me up for 80mph, though he said he clocked me at 101mph. And after $185 including online comedy traffic school, no points.

Jason - N6WBL