Wireless telecommunications devices; prohibits use of while driving except in an emergency. (HB1659)

Introduced By

Del. Algie Howell (D-Norfolk)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Use of wireless telecommunications devices while driving. Prohibits use of wireless telecommunications devices, whether handheld or otherwise, while operating a motor vehicle, bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped on the highways in the Commonwealth, except in an emergency. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


12/15/2008Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/14/09 098070540
12/15/2008Referred to Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety
01/27/2009Assigned MPPS sub: #2
01/29/2009Subcommittee recommends laying on the table by voice vote
02/10/2009Left in Militia, Police and Public Safety


Waldo Jaquith writes:

As I understand this bill, it would prohibit any usage of any mobile phone in any moving vehicle anywhere in Virginia, "except in an emergency," which is undefined.

John Athayde writes:

The summary in the full text limits it to text-messaging, but the bill is nebulous as best.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

You're right, the introductory text does indicate that:

A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 46.2-1078.1, relating to use of wireless telecommunications devices for text messaging while operating certain vehicles.

(Believe it or not, I think that text, at the top of all bills, is referred to as the "title," in legislature-speak.)

But the text of the bill itself doesn't specify text messaging. So while that may be the intent of this bill, I don't think that would be its effect. I don't know what the equivalent of dicta is in writing laws, but I think this is that.

If Del. Howell truly intends to bar text messaging, and not all use of mobile phones, I suspect that he'll need to have this rewritten.

Tim McCormack writes:

Perhaps the "title" was copied from a similar bill as a shortcut, and someone didn't realize the substance was somewhat different.

Ken M writes:

Needs to be more specific on what a telecommunications device is. Does this include two way radios used by utilities, police, fire, local governments, and truckers (eg. CB radio)? Or are we talking devices that interface with commercial phone/data networks (eg. cell phones)?

Bruce Mertz WA8KLH writes:

I feel we need to exempt Armature Radio Operators (Ham) I have operated a mobile VHF, UHF and HF Radios for the past 40 years` without accident. As a member of several volunteer emergency organizations supporting the City, State and Red Cross sand FEMA We require our radios to communicate with other Hams during exercises and general communications.

Joseph J. Imburgia Jr. KI4LXT writes:

As an Amateur Radio District Emergency Coordinator I feel Amateur Radio should be exempt from the Bill. The Bill will severly restrict our ability to function. I thought the FCC regulated radio useage not the State of Virginia. Would the Bill restrict useage if the vehicle is stopped or anytime the vehicle is in use? I do not see how the State's limited fund for State Police can enforce this new law.

Mike Mitchell writes:

Interesting that it could bar the operator of a motorized wheelchair (an "electric personal assistive mobility device") from listening to the radio (a "wireless telecommunications device') while in motion.

Seriously, this bill would ban the use of Ham and CB radio traffic among commercial truckers and regional amateur operators, and should not be approved as written.

Mark L. Faron K4MLF writes:

This bill would severely limit the capability of ham radio operators during times of need. Ham radio operators should be exempt.

Karl Jacobsen KI4VFH writes:

The use of HAM radios need to be exempt, It is used for communications that are not always an emergency but necessary.

Steve Crane KY4VT writes:

If this bill's intention is to prohibit text messaging while driving, as the summary of the bill says, the text of the change is way too broad. I'm going to assume that the word "highways" really means "roadways" and that "any person" includes police and fire personnel. There are many licensed radio services (GMRS, Public Service, Amateur, Red Cross, etc.) that need to be allowed to continue to use their mobile radio equipment to communicate while on the roads.

Joy Safranek (W2JMS) writes:

As a licensed amateur radio operator who has volunteered to work with local emergency management during disasters, I feel that amateur radio operators should be exempted as well as law enforcement, fire/rescue, and other government vehicles that will have to respond to emergency situations. Amateur radio operators volunteer many hours to use their wireless equipment so that other emergency agencies can operate if/when they lose their main comm system. To keep us from using it in our vehicles, would limit our ability to be useful in these situations.

Mike Hale KF4UEL writes:

Dear ________,

I am writing you to voice my strong opposition to ____________.
These recently introduced bill(s) limit the use of cellular phones and “mobile telecommunications devices”. My concern is that there is no exemption for Amateur Radio operators and their associated equipment.

Amateur Radio operators have contributed valuable contributions to society including valuable emergency communications, this most recently spotlighted in the total collapse of New Orleans’s communications networks during and after hurricane Katrina. Amateur Radio operators provided exemplary communications support for the city. Many of the operators volunteered, traveling from states across the nation. It would be impracticable to regulate the use of their mobile equipment in any state.

The federal government via the FCC licenses amateur Radio operators alongside state, county, and local emergency service responders as well as state agencies such as the department of transportation and other state services. Allowing any of these bill(s) to pass would cause these users to be in violation of state law as well. I therefore ask you to ensure that mobile radio users are exempted from these bill(s) if allowed to pass.

It is important to remember that the hobby and volunteer service of any amateur radio operator relies heavily on the ability to use communications equipment while mobile in a vehicle. Almost all communications gear in this industry is designed for mobile use, including handheld radios. Equipment used stationary in buildings is usually mobile equipment augmented by power supplies. Furthermore if Amateur Radio Operators are restricted to hands-free devices the practical application of using communications gear while mobile would be hindered and possibly made dangerous. Mobile radio operators have used radio devices since the early day of radio without any problems or any laws to restrict their usage. Restricting Amateur Radio to hands-free devices is not an option.

With the broad implications and to prevent confusion with neighboring states, I ask you to have the above bill(s) modified to allow unrestricted amateur radio use by the driver of a vehicle while the vehicle is in motion. Furthermore, for the sake of the industry and related services I ask that the restrictions outlined in the above bill(s) apply to paid subscriber cellular telephone services only, completely exempting all other communications.

For the mentioned bill(s) if modifications cannot be made I ask you to vote against these bill(s). I understand the importance of highway safety, however the vague nature of these bill(s) jeopardizes Amateur Radio.