Criminal Law

Tougher penalties for mobile phone users in NSW

In the past few years mobile phone use whilst driving or in control of a motor vehicle have become increasingly stringent. There are numerous valid reasons law enforcement in New South Wales have placed harsher penalties for driver’s caught using their phone including, an increase in collisions caused by mobile phone distraction. Even legal use of phones can be distracting and whilst the safest option is to wait until you are parked and out of the line of traffic before touching your phone, there are some ways you are able to use your mobile phone legally.

Explained below is a simple list of when you can and cannot use your phone whilst in control of a motor vehicle and a summary of the NEW penalties in place if you are caught doing the wrong thing.

 

Demerit point increase

From 17 September 2018 the demerit point penalty for mobile phone use by drivers increased from four (4) demerit points to five (5) demerit points. Bear in mind that during special holiday double demerit point periods, demerit point loss will be doubled to ten (10) points! For a full licensed driver, if you already are missing a few demerits off your license if caught during a ‘double demerits’ period, this could see you with an automatic license suspension for a minimum of 3 months.

 

Learner, P1 and P2 drivers and motorcyclists 

Learner and provisional drivers and motorcyclists are NOT permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving or riding. You cannot use your mobile phone when stuck in traffic or stopped at the lights for any reason. You must be parked out of the line of traffic to use your phone in any way. If you are a learner or provisional 1 (red p -plater) and you are caught using your phone, you will exceed your demerit point threshold (as you only have a maximum amount of four (4) points) and face an automatic three (3) month license suspension.

Provisional 2 (green p-plater) and provisional motorcycle riders if caught will only have three (3) demerit points remaining. Remember this does not include the double demerit special holiday periods! If caught during ‘double demerits’, you will also face a three (3) month license suspension.

 

Full licensed drivers, motorcyclists & bicycle riders

You can use your mobile phone ONLY in a limited numbers of circumstances;

  1. To make or answer a call ONLY IF the phone is in a fixed cradle and doesn’t obscure your view of the road;
  2. To use the audio/music playing function;
  3. To use the GPS navigation, speed adviser application etc (eg as a driver’s aid); AND
  4. Can be operated WITHOUT touching any part of the phone (eg, Bluetooth or voice activation).

*You can only use these functions IF and ONLY IF your phone is in a fixed cradle that is not obscuring your view AND it can be operated without touching any part of the phone.

 

While driving or riding you CANNOT

You cannot use your phone for anything other than the above list. If you intend to use any of the functions or your mobile phone you must be parked out of the line of traffic with the vehicle off. Even if your car is stopped in traffic, all of the below functions are a NO. You cannot;

  • Text / SMS or use the audio texting function;
  • Email;
  • Take photos;
  • Use social media;
  • Video message;
  • Hold your phone in any way (hand, lap, between shoulder/ear);
  • Drivers can ONLY pass it onto a passenger.

Penalties

Police now have mobile phone detection software. The best option for you to keep your license and keep safe is to not use your mobile phone at all and if you have to use a mobile phone, in the permitted ways only. Drivers who break the rules face large fines and automatic loss of license through demerit point penalties.

 

If you do find yourself facing a loss of license, act quickly and phone one of our traffic specialist Lawyers who will be able to give you legal advice about your options.

 

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