Mobile Phones - Know the Rules When on the Road

Drivers using a mobile phone illegally now have a greater chance of getting caught as NSW introduces mobile phone detection cameras, with other Australian states set to follow suit.

Ten mobile phone detection cameras (a mix of both fixed and portable) were installed in NSW from 1 December 2019 with more cameras to come.  The mobile phone detection cameras have sophisticated software that automatically detects if a driver is handling a phone.   The cameras work night or day, in any weather conditions and can operate accurately at speeds of up to 300kmh.

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A three month trial was implemented at two locations in metropolitan Sydney (Anzac Parade and the M4 Motorway) which resulted in 100,000 drivers being detected illegally using a mobile phone.  This would be the equivalent of more than $34 million in fines.

Penalties for illegal mobile phone use while driving are $344 and five demerit points.  In school zones the fine increases to $457 and during periods of double demerit points (such as the Christmas/New Year period) 10 demerit points will be issued.

Be further aware because unlike NSW speed cameras, which have warning signs before them, there will be no warning signs for mobile phone detection cameras. 

Many drivers are still unaware of the fine print of the law when it comes to mobile phone use so before you head off this Christmas/New Year season ensure you know the rules:

Learner and Provisional licence holders are not allowed to use any function of a mobile phone while driving, including audio and navigation. The device can be kept in their pocket, a bag or in a console of the car but it cannot be rested on their body, handled or used in any way at all while driving.

Fully licenced drivers must not touch their phone at all while driving but can use functions that are able to be activated by voice, such as making calls, playing audio and using navigation.  Drivers cannot touch the phone to take or make a call, even when in an approved and secure mobile phone mount.  A mobile phone cannot be “held” which includes resting on any part of the driver’s body.

If the phone needs to be touched to operate audio or navigation functions, this must be set up before the vehicle is moving or only via smartphone mirroring apps such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which use the vehicle's infotainment screen.

In NSW and most other jurisdictions, the car must be parked in a designated parking area and the vehicle stopped before a phone can be used.  It is illegal to use a phone when the vehicle is stopped in a line of traffic.

Double demerit points will be in force over the Christmas and New Year period in NSW from Friday 20 December 2019 to 1 January 2020 (inclusive.  Drivers illegally using a mobile phone risk a $344 fine and 10 demerits points during this period.   

Stay safe on the road. 

Information accurate as at December 2019.

Gordon Garling Moffit Lawyers