(HAMILTON)- In a month Hamilton drivers will have to go “hands free” when calling behind the wheel, with the city council approving the latest cell phone ban.
But the panel also added an important amendment to keep from handcuffing one set of mobile communicators.
Tuesday night the Hamilton City Council was poised to become the next Montana city, and the smallest in the state, to ban cell phones while driving.
During the first hearing last month, no one showed up to comment. But this time around the proposal brought out an army of amateur radio operators, complaining the ban on “handheld electronic communication devices” could shut them down entirely.
The hams said that wasn’t just bad for their hobby, but could put them in a position of breaking the law if they were using their radios to help in emergencies. And they told the council their new equipment is designed to keep eyes on the road.
Amatuer radio operator John Mann waved one of his new microphones at the council, showing how it contained all the important controls for his radio.
“The way that I’m operating this is less distractive than turning on the car radio and search for local radio stations, or AM and FM or whatever you want and punching buttons and looking down and all of that. I’m looking straight ahead.”
Council members would agree with the hams’ arguments, adding another exemption for licensed amateur radio operators in addition to people using two-way radios for work or cell phones to report emergencies or calling while parked off the road. Police are also exempt, although some speakers said the rule should apply to everyone and likely wouldn't cut the risk of accidents.
Councilman Al Mitchell, who pushed for the ordinance, said the law is a measure of prevention.
“That’s right. You know we haven’t had any accidents as far as we know. We haven’t had any deaths obviously. But by enacting this ordinance hopefully we will never have to say that we did have that problem.”
The ordinance takes effect on July 5th.