What's the law? Mobile phones and driving

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

Mobile phone detection cameras 

The Mobile Phone Detection Camera program enforcing illegal mobile phone use has been in place in NSW since December 2019.

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.

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.

Distracted driving and mobile phones

With 20 million mobile phone users in Australia in 2019 and the addition of new in-vehicle communication systems, distracted driving is fast becoming a threat to road safety.

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

What are the road rules in relation to mobile phones?

Drivers or riders can 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;
  • Can be operated without touching any part of the phone, such as via Bluetooth or voice activation.
  • Drivers are able to use their mobile phone as a driver’s aid (e.g. GPS) only if the phone is in a cradle fixed to the vehicle and doesn’t obscure their view of the road.

While driving or riding you cannot use your mobile phone for anything else, including:

  • Texting or audio texting
  • Emailing • Using social media
  • Taking photos • Video messaging
  • Holding your phone in any way (in hand, on lap, between shoulder and ear). Drivers are only allowed to hold a phone to pass it to a passenger.

If you want to use your phone for any of these functions, your vehicle must be 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.

Learner, P1 and P2 drivers and motorcyclists (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.

How the NRMA are 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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