New mobile phone and driving rules in Australia

Date Posted:21 December 2013 

Fasten your seatbelts, NSW driving laws are set to get even tighter. Effective November 1st 2012, firm restrictions were put in place to help keep your eyes on the road. Over the last year the newly implemented tougher mobile phone laws have managed to reduce the amount of fines issued by police, prompting Transport NSW to consider extending their scope even further.

When you’re behind the wheel there can be a whole host of distractions competing for your attention. Noisy passengers, changing the radio station, spotting a street sign, or having to glance down at a map are just some of the many momentary lapses in concentration which can inadvertently cause a simple drive to end in tragedy. Shocking research has discovered that taking your eyes off the road to read a text message makes you 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident. Even simply reaching for your mobile phone while driving can significantly increase the risk of a crash.

The Australian Road Rules now require all drivers to buy and install approved dashboard affixed cradles for their smartphones. These measures are designed to ensure the driver’s gaze is firmly focused on the road and not their lap. The driver’s phone must remain in its cradle when using GPS, making a hand’s free call or playing music, even if the car is stationary. It’s also completely illegal to text or send email while driving, and drivers on their P’s and Learners can’t use a phone at all.  Get caught with your mobile out of its cradle and you’ll cop a $298 ($397 in a school zone) fine as well as losing 3 demerit points (4 in a school zone) from your license.

Since these laws were introduced last year, The Office of State Revenue has reported a 50% drop in fines issued in August (compared to the previous year), and an overall 13% decrease for 2013. In response Transport NSW is pushing to make it easier for phones to be seized by the police as evidence. Also up for consideration is increasing the ban on using mobile devices (even in hands free mode) to all young drivers. However the government has ignored advice from both the NRMA and the NSW Police on increasing the $298 penalty for repeat offenders. They’ve also rejected calls to classify voice calls and texting as separate offences, claiming such changes would be impractical and difficult to enforce.

While some are describing these new restrictions as excessive or draconian, it seems that the mandatory dashboard mounted cradles aren’t just saving lives, they’re also saving you from traffic fines.