What's the law? Mobile phones and driving

Using a mobile phone and driving
mobile phone use behind the wheel

Using a mobile phone while driving increases your risk of a crash four-fold. Using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous because it may lead to:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Wandering out of your lane
  • Slower and less controlled braking
  • Riskier decision making

When can a driver legally use a mobile phone?

Drivers or riders can legally use their mobile phone:

  • To make or answer a call and use the audio playing function (e.g. music) only if the phone is either:
  • in a cradle fixed to the vehicle and doesn’t obscure their view of the road; or
  • can be operated without touching any part of the phone, such as via Bluetooth or voice activation.
  • As a driver’s aid (e.g. GPS) only if the mobile phone is in a cradle fixed to the vehicle and doesn’t obscure their view of the road.
  • To access a Digital Driver Licence only after a police officer has asked you to do so.
  • To use wallet functions (make a transaction, show a coupon or voucher, or to access an area) only if the vehicle is: stationary and off the road (such as in a carpark, driveway or drive thru).

Drivers are only allowed to hold a mobile phone to pass it to a passenger.

What is illegal to do with a mobile phone while driving?

All other functions including video calling, texting, emailing, social media, web browsing and photography are prohibited unless parked out of the line of traffic. These functions are not permitted when your vehicle is stopped, including when waiting at traffic lights or stuck in traffic.

A driver cannot holding a phone in any way (in hand, on lap, between shoulder and ear) except if passing it to a passenger. 

Can learner, P1 and P2 drivers and motorcyclists use mobile phones in NSW?

Learner, P1 and P2 licence holders are not permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving or riding. This includes when waiting at traffic lights or stuck in traffic. You must be parked out of the line of traffic to use your phone in any way.

What is the penalty for using phone while driving?

Drivers who use a mobile phone illegally will be penalised five demerit points. During double demerit periods, drivers who break the rules will be penalised 10 demerit points, plus sizeable fines apply.

Mobile phone detection cameras

The Mobile Phone Detection Camera Program enforcing illegal mobile phone use was introduced in NSW in December 2019 with plans to expand the program over the next three years. It is anticipated that by 2023, approximately 45 cameras will be operating across NSW, performing more than 135 million vehicle checks annually. The detection cameras will be introduced in the ACT in the second half of 2021.

The program includes fixed and transportable cameras that operate at locations across the network. The high-definition cameras use artificial intelligence to spot drivers, regardless of the weather or time of day. While the portable versions are mounted on trailers and operate across the state.

For more information on mobile phone detection cameras, click here.

How the NRMA is advocating on behalf of Members to improve safety on our roads

 

Outdated road rules

Laws should be regularly reviewed to ensure they remain up to date with the latest technological advances. An example of this is NSW Road Rules 2014 Rule 300 (3) that states:

For the purposes of this rule, a driver does not use a phone to receive a text message, video message, email or similar communication if:

(a) the communication is received automatically by the phone, and
(b) on and after receipt, the communication itself (rather than any indication that the communication has been received) does not become automatically visible on the screen of the phone.

This sub rule is outdated as many mobile phones now provide summary information of messages rather than just an indication of receipt.

ACT Legislation and learner drivers

The NRMA has successfully advocated for the ban of mobile phone use by ACT L and P plate drivers. This came into effect on 1 July 2019.

Road Safety Series

The NRMA has prepared a series of reports with the aim of identifying the main factors involved in road crashes and initiatives that may help to reduce the risk of loss life and injuries.

To find out more, download the first report from our Road Safety Series, Can’t Talk. Driving. here.

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