With an amateur radio licence, “Going mobile” and talking to other amateurs is great fun. Using the network of 2metre and 70cm repeaters, it’s possible to talk to other hams a recent distance away using a low-powered handheld / in-car rig.
The big question though… is it legal to operate an amateur radio rig whilst driving…
Technically, the answer is “yes”, but there are some things that you should be aware of:
Use of amateur radio in-car
As you’ll of course be aware, the law does not allow you to use a mobile phone whilst driving. The law that covers this is the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003.
Section 2. 110 (1) of the regulations clearly state:
No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a road if he is using—(a)a hand-held mobile telephone; or(b)a hand-held device of a kind specified in paragraph (4).
Paragraph 4 states:
A device referred to in paragraphs (1)(b), (2)(b) and (3)(b) is a device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.
Note the “other than a two-way radio”. Paragraph 6(b) defines a two-way radio as follows:
“two-way radio” means any wireless telegraphy apparatus which is designed or adapted—
(i)for the purpose of transmitting and receiving spoken messages; and
(ii)to operate on any frequency other than 880 MHz to 915 MHz, 925 MHz to 960 MHz, 1710 MHz to 1785 MHz, 1805 MHz to 1880 MHz, 1900 MHz to 1980 MHz or 2110 MHz to 2170 MHz
From this, use of a two-way amateur radio rig in-car on the amateur frequencies, appears not to be an offence under the ‘you can’t use a mobile phone when driving’ laws. It also allows the emergency services, companies such as taxi firms, and even CB users, to operate two-way radios whilst driving.
Note: We’re not legally trained, and none of the advice here should be taken as legally binding. We accept no liability for any of the advice given here.
You can read the law for yourself at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/2695/regulation/2/
Although the law doesn’t prevent you from using a two-way radio whilst driving, that doesn’t mean that you’re free to use your amateur radio in your car in a way that could endanger other road users, or distract you from driving.
If the police see you using your equipment whilst driving, and have a reasonable belief that your use of equipment is causing your driving to suffer in any way, they can stop you for “driving without due care and attention”, which can lead to prosecution under Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This can lead to you getting between 3 and 9 points on your driving licence, a fine, and in some circumstances, a disqualification.
Advice for mobile hams
Some common sense advice, based on our team’s experiences of operating “mobile”:
- Make sure your antenna is appropriate and secured properly
- Make sure your radio is “fixed”. When mobile, I tend to use a handheld ham radio with a mag mount antenna on the car roof. The radio is fixed to the dashboard using a mobile phone holder, and I use either a fist mic, or an earpiece and clip on mic. This way, there’s no danger of the radio falling on the floor, and the controls and display are as accessible as my car stereo.
- Although you can operate when mobile, exercising discretion when you see a police car is a good idea. If they think your rig is a mobile phone, you may get pulled.
- Consider keeping a copy of your amateur radio licence, plus a copy of the law that exempts the use of a two-way radio, in your glove box. There’s no legal reason to do this, but it may be helpful if you’re stopped by a police officer who’s not aware of what us hams do, and the exemptions that apply. You can print a copy of the law from here: The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003
- Above all, drive safely. If it’s not 100% safe to operate your rig whilst driving. Don’t.