Get your hand off it!

Downing Centre Local Court, Recent News, Traffic Law

Use of a mobile phone whilst driving

Using a mobile phone to send text messages where the driver presses anything on the body of the phone or otherwise manipulates any part of the phone whilst driving is prohibited in NSW. Anyone on a learner, provisional P1 or P2 licence must not use a mobile phone for any function at all, and NSW police are now using long lens cameras to photograph drivers using a mobile phone illegally whilst driving.

The Road Rules 2014 is the relevant NSW legislation which governs all drivers on the road in NSW.

Rule 300 of the Road Rules provides that the driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, unless:

  • The phone is being used to make or receive an audio phone call or to perform an audio playing function and the body of the phone:
  • Is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being so used, or
  • Is not secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle and is not being held by the driver, and the use of the pone does not required the driver, at any time while using it, to press any thing on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone, or
  • The phone is functioning as a visual display unit that is being used as a driver’s aid and the phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle,
  • The vehicle is an emergency vehicle or a police vehicle, or
  • The driver is exempt from this rule under another law of this jurisdiction

This means you cannot hold a mobile phone in your hand, on your lap, between your shoulder and ear or in any way similar. You are permitted to pass a mobile phone to a passenger. You cannot however look at anything that is in the phone or turn the phone on or off.

Importantly, under subsection (2), a mobile phone is only deemed to be secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle if the phone is secured in the mounting, the mounting is commercially designed and manufactured for that purpose and is affixed to the vehicle in the manner intended by the manufacturer.

This means if you hold an unrestricted licence and have not properly secured the mobile phone to a legitimate mounting affixed to the vehicle in the manner it is designed to be, you may be liable to a penalty.

Also, if a driver receives a text message, video message, email or similar communication and the communication becomes automatically visible on the screen of the phone, a driver is deemed to have used the phone and may be liable to a penalty.

Under Rule 300-1, anyone on a learner, provisional P1 or P2 licence are completely prohibited from using a mobile phone for any function at all whilst the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked. This means a person on a leaner, provisional P1 or P2 licence cannot use a phone for an audio playing function, GPS function, to make or receive calls or send or receive text messages or similar, whether or not the mobile phone is properly secured in a legitimate mounting affixed to the vehicle in the manner it is designed to be. A driver who contravenes this rule may be liable to a penalty.

The maximum penalty that may be imposed for the use of a mobile phone whilst driving is 20 penalty units or $2,200.00. Generally the penalties are four demerit points plus a fine of $325 or $433 in a school zone.

Police statistics provide that in 2016, nine hundred drivers on a provisional licence were fined. In the same year more than thirty eight thousand fully licensed drivers were fined.