Most of you already know that it is an offence to use a mobile phone whilst driving – Rule 300 of the Road Rules 2014.
Penalties include a fine of $337 ($448 in a school zone) and 5 demerit points incurred to your drivers licence (increased from 4 demerit points as of 17/09/2018).
In addition, as part of its new road safety plan the Government is now at its final stages of deploying high-tech cameras, installed across the State to detect the use of mobile phone by drivers. The weatherproof cameras will operate day and night, capturing images of the front-row cabin space of all vehicles, including the driver and passenger seat.
It is therefore imperative that drivers have a clear understanding of the rules associated with the use of mobile phones.
What you CANNOT do whilst driving
Note: “Driving” includes a stationary vehicle that is not parked. For example, this means that using a mobile phone whilst the vehicle is stationary at the traffic lights will constitute an offence. Your vehicle must otherwise be parked and out of the line of traffic.
Unless you fall within the exceptions (set out further below), you cannot do any of the following:
- Enter, send, or even look at anything on the phone – for example:
- Audio texting
- Using any social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
- Taking photos
- Video messaging
- The “No Touching Rule”:
You cannot physically touch the phone in any way (whether or not the phone is engaged in a telephone call). This includes having the phone in your hand, on your lap, or between your shoulder and ear.
You are however permitted to have the phone in your pocket/pouch, or if you are handing the phone to a passenger in the vehicle.
- Operate any other function of the phone (includes turning it on/off).
What you CAN do whilst driving (Exceptions)
Note: The following exceptions are only available to unrestricted drivers and motorcyclists. Learners and Provisional licence holders are prohibited under any circumstances from using a mobile phone whilst driving.
The exceptions which permit the use of mobile phone whilst driving, are limited to 3 functions:
- To make/receive a telephone call; or
- To use the audio playing function from your mobile (for example – playing music); or
- To use as a driver’s aid (for example – GPS navigation, rear-view camera, speed adviser or CCTV camera)
The above functions are only permitted if the mobile phone is being held in a phone cradle which is mounted to the vehicle. The mounting must be commercially designed and fitted in a manner as intended by the manufacturer. This means you cannot tamper with the product or worse, use a homemade product to mount the phone.
The position of where the phone is mounted must not obscure your view of the road.
What about Bluetooth?
If your mobile phone is connected to the vehicle via Bluetooth (as most modern vehicles are equipped with) you do not have to have the phone mounted to the vehicle to perform functions 1) or 2) above. In such circumstances however, you are not permitted to touch the phone in any way. Instead, you must operate the phone using the vehicle’s Bluetooth features – for example, through voice activation or by pressing the call button from the vehicle display screen or steering wheel.
As to using function 3), the mobile phone must at all times be held in a mounting fixed to the vehicle.
We need to be mindful that using a mobile phone, even within the permitted rules, is a distracting exercise and can be dangerous to yourself and other road users. The consequences can often be devastating and far worse than receiving a fine or incurring demerit points.
Statistics show that from 2010 to 2014, there were 236 crashes where hand-held mobile phone use by drivers was identified as a contributing factor. From July 2014 to June 2015, more than 35,300 fines were issues in NSW for driving whilst using a mobile phone.
So, it is important to consider the real urgency of using a mobile phone before putting your life and the lives of others at risk.
If you have been fined for a mobile phone offence and would like to obtain advice to consider your legal standing, please do not hesitate to contact our office for an initial obligation-free consultation.