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Big Penalties Apply for Using a Mobile Phone While Driving

Today sees the roll out of mobile phone detection cameras in New South Wales. Queensland is intended roll out the program on 1 February 2020 along with an increase in on-the-spot fines for using a mobile phone while driving from $400.00 to $1,000.00, for the first offence. The second offence in a year could result the suspension of your driver’s license. The demerit points for any offence will remain at 3 points.

Currently (and this will continue to be the case) the offence of using a mobile phone occurs while driving, but it also includes when stopped at traffic lights, or stationary in congested traffic. It is only legal to use your mobile while legally parked (the vehicle is stationary in a safe position, with the gears in neutral and with the hand brake applied).

What is considered use of your mobile phone while driving:

  • Turning on and off your phone;
  • Making/receiving calls, or sending/receiving test messages (including via apps like Messenger;
  • Operating any function on your phone – including changing a song, using navigation software, or switching your phone to loudspeaker.

You are permitted to use the phone ‘hands-free’ which includes using the phone connected to the speakers via a cable system, or Bluetooth – as long as you do not touch the phone while driving.

The rules are different for provisional 1 (red plate) and learner drivers. Those drivers cannot use the ‘hands-free’ method at all. This rule also applies to passengers of those drivers.

The offence may extend to using a navigation device designed for only that function.

McNamara Law recommends:

  • When using navigation, set the destination before driving;
  • Turn your phone off (or activate airplane mode) before driving;
  • If you must drive with your phone active, use a hands-free system that allows you to answer a call without your hands leaving the steering wheel;
  • If you do not have a hands-free system, only use your phone while parked;
  • If you have your phone on a mounting bracket, it must not obscure your view of the road.

These rules do not apply to CB radios, or any other two-way radios, that are commonly used in the transport industry.

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