The state of Victoria is cracking down on distracted drivers, introducing new rules from March 31, 2023 surrounding device use as it rolls out mobile phone and seat belt cameras.
UPDATE, 31/03/2023 – With the new fines coming into effect from today in Victoria, we’ve brought this article forward.
Illegal use of a mobile phone or other device attracts a $555 fine and four demerit points. If the matter is heard at court, the fine can be as much as $1849.
Learner and probationary drivers will lose their permit or licence if they accumulate more than four demerit points in a year; full licence holders’ limit is 11 demerit points over a three-year period.
You can view a full breakdown of the rules on the VicRoads website.
Open licence holders
Regardless of whether your mobile phone or tablet is securely mounted in a cradle, you can’t enter text, numbers or symbols, scroll or take video calls, nor can you view videos, games, photos, emails or social media.
You also can’t rest a device on any part of the body or pass a device to a passenger.
You can, however, use it to manage an audio call, stream music, adjust volume or use navigation or any other function designed to help you operate the vehicle.
These rules also apply to infotainment systems, wearable devices like smart watches and motorbike helmet devices.
An unmounted phone, tablet, laptop, media player or game console can’t be used by a driver, period. That includes touching it or having it in your lap, and you also can’t look over at a passenger’s device nor can they pass their device to you.
The rules for wearable devices like smartwatches are slightly different. You can manage an audio call, play or stream audio and adjust volume levels, but that’s it.
Learner, P1 and P2 drivers
Understandably, the laws overall are stricter for learner, P1 and P2 drivers. Effectively, these drivers can’t do any of what full licence holders are permitted to do, with only narrow exceptions.
Learner, P1 and P2 drivers can only use mounted devices for navigation and audio streaming if it’s set up before a journey commences. They can’t touch a device on the move even to skip a song or change a destination.
These drivers can also only “briefly” touch an infotainment system to adjust navigation settings, climate controls and audio functions. No scrolling or voice controls are permitted.
As for wearable devices, these drivers can’t touch them or use voice controls. Motorbike helmet devices can also only be used for navigation and audio streaming.
If you drive a vehicle for your occupation, for example truck drivers and taxi or ride share operators, you’re also permitted to do the following with a device:
- Accepting or rejecting a job
- Gathering information
- Maintaining safety and security
- Facilitating passenger movement
These drivers can’t, however, scroll on a device or enter information or text while on the move.
Riders of electric scooters, bicycles etc
The Victorian Government says all of the new rules apply to riders and operators of bicycles, electric scooters, “recreational vehicles” such as skateboards and rollerblades, and electric personal transporters.
“Too many drivers continue to put lives at risk using mobile phones behind the wheel. We’re deterring this type of risky behaviour on our roads with these new road rules, as well as phone and seatbelt detection technology,” said Victorian police minister Anthony Carbines.
“We need every motorist to make the right decisions when they’re behind the wheel. When they don’t, road safety cameras and Victoria Police are there to hold them accountable.”
The Victorian Government has also cited research that distraction is involved at least 11 per cent of fatalities.
Victoria isn’t alone in rolling out mobile phone and seat belt detection cameras. Queensland has also rolled out numerous cameras of this type, and recorded over 100,000 offences between November 1, 2021 and May 25, 2022.