The evidence shows that driving takes a lot of attention and anything that could distract you from the job at hand could well be dangerous for yourself and other road users.
Research by the Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety (CARRS) in Queensland has found that using a mobile while driving could increase your chances of having an accident four-fold.
- Using your phone is illegal while driving unless certain criteria are met
- Rules are even stricter for Learner and Provisional drivers
- Fines and demerit points apply – and the penalties can be severe
Most of us can’t bear to think about not having our phone with us at all times, because they’re not just phones these days. These pocket computers have access to the entire internet, all the socials, and you can watch your favourite programs or YouTube on them, too, not to mention speaking to loved ones or seeing them over video calls. Heck, I know I’ve dialled into my fair share of work calls from the car.
And the integrated technology in cars – things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – make this so much easier today than it ever would have been in the past – but, you must know this by now. Using your phone while you drive can be really, really dangerous.
But if you look at someone else’s phone while you drive, that can also be really dangerous. And there are rules and laws that govern that behaviour, too.
Plus, don’t even think about catching up on Squid Game while you’re stuck in traffic. Visual Display Units (VDU) could also see you fined.
Further, don’t think that because you’re at a halt in traffic that it’s okay to pull out your phone and check your email. The laws are strict about this, and fines still apply if you’re stopped, but not parked. Plus, you can be booked for having your phone in your lap, or under your leg.
The rules are even more severe for learner and provisional drivers – as they should be, arguably, because learning not to use your phone while you’re still effectively learning to drive seems very logical.
L-platers and P1 licence holders in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania are not permitted to use their phone at all, even if it’s cradled, and even if it’s connected to the car via Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. P2 licence-holders can use a phone if they abide by the laws in their state or territory, but in NSW and QLD the no-tolerance policy applies.
The laws around mobile phone use vary from state to state, so here’s a rundown.
New South Wales
NSW has plenty of mobile phone cameras, and they catch thousands of people using their phone every week while driving. The law states you can only use a phone “to make or receive an audio phone call or to perform an audio playing function and the body of the phone”, and if the phone is “secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being so used” or “is not secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle and is not being held by the driver, and the use of the phone does not require the driver, at any time while using it, to press anything on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone”. In other words, you can’t touch your phone unless it’s in a securely mounted cradle.
If a mobile phone detection camera catches you using your phone in the wrong way while driving, the penalty is five demerit points and a $362 fine ($481 in a school zone). The penalty increases to 10 demerit points during double-demerit periods.
No binge-watching that new show you heard about, either. Using a “television receiver or visual display unit” inappropriately will net you a $220 fine.
The laws in Victoria for “using a mobile phone illegally while driving” and “using a visual display unit or television illegally while driving” are the same – four demerit points per offence. And the fine is $555.
And hey, if you’re someone who gets around in a personal mobility scooter, then you’re not exempt from the mobile phone laws, either. Victorian police can fine you $462.
QLD is pretty strict on mobile phone use while driving. There are a few offences in the law books, each representing a four-point loss and a $1078 fine.
If you are the driver of a vehicle using a mobile phone (other than in a parked vehicle), or a Class C learner licence holder under 25 using a mobile phone when driving, or a Class C P1 provisional licence holder under 25 or P1 probationary licence holder using a mobile phone when driving, the penalty is the same.
Likewise, if you’re caught driving a vehicle when the “image from television or [a] visual display unit [is] visible to the driver or likely to distract another driver”, it’s a $191 fine and three points at risk.
In Tassie, you can be fined for using your phone – even if you’re a cyclist! If you don’t mount your phone securely, you can be booked for using it while riding (when moving or stationary, but not parked). And it’ll cost you $130 in fines.
For those in cars? “Drive using mobile phone (when moving or stationary, but not parked) except to make or receive call from phone secured in mounting or not required to be touched,” and you could cop a $346 fine and three demerit points.
It’s a $173 fine for watching telly while on the road, too.
South Australia’s licensing rulebook puts it plainly: Using mobile phone while driving – $565 fine; three demerit points. It’s the same fine and demerit impact for a learner or P1 driver.
If you use your mobile phone to creating, send or look at a text, email, social media, photo, video or similar, you could be fined up to $1000 and lose four points.
And if you touch or hold a mobile phone while not in a cradle to make, receive or end a voice call, the fine is $500 and three points.
The Northern Territory road rules state that drivers “must not use a hand-held mobile phone or visual display unit while driving, even if you are stopped at traffic lights”. Seems pretty straightforward, and so is the breakdown:
- Drive while using a hand-held mobile phone – $500 fine – three demerit points
- Learner or provisional using any mobile phone – $500 – three demerit points
- Drive while image on TV or visual display unit screen is visible to driver – $500 – three demerit points
- Drive while image on TV or visual display unit screen likely to distract another driver – $500 – three demerit points
If you are caught using a “mobile device” while driving, you can be fined $498 and three demerit points. However, if you are found to be “using a mobile device for messaging, social networking, mobile application or accessing the internet” it’s a $612 fine and four points.
The ACT also has a fine for personal mobility device users who decide to use their mobile phone while operating it – a $498 fine!
Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.