Driving and Mobile Phone Laws

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By now all drivers should be well aware of the new road rules that came in regarding the use of mobile phones (and other gadgetry) whilst driving. Many people would agree that using mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle is dangerous - your attention simply cannot be in two places at once, and the split second you glance aware from your windscreen to check your mobile phone screen could cost you, or someone else, their life. If you use a mobile phone while you're driving, you can be up to four times more likely to have an accidenti. So what exactly are the new rules and what do they mean for road users?

Using a mobile phone and driving

If you own a mobile phone and drive a car, you can only use the two at the same time to make or receive a call, or use the MP3 function on the phone, if the phone is in a mobile phone holder. If it's not mounted then you are not allowed to touch or manipulate it in any way, other than to pass it to a passenger. Any and all other functions such as Facebook, email, text and chat are prohibited. If you need to check your messages or update your status, you need to park your car (not simply stop at the traffic lights). The penalty if you're caught is three demerit points and $298 (if you're in a school zone, it's 4 points and $397). Don't think that you can report a Police officer or other emergency service worker for the same thing - they have always been, and continue to be, allowed to use their mobile phones in the course of their dutyii.

The same restrictions and penalties apply if you're using a GPS (or the GPS function in a mobile phone) - they must be mounted in a holder commercially designed and manufactured for this purpose. Securing your Navman to the rear vision mirror with an elastic band or duct tape doesn't count. It also must be away from the driver's direct line of vision and safely affixed to the windscreen or other stable surface. You don't need to have it professionally installed, however - just a little common sense is all that's required.

Driving while using a GPS

Bluetooth is one way you can safely avoid a fine and still be allowed to make and receive phone calls while driving. Because a Bluetooth device is not actually part of the phone, you can use it to make or take calls without touching the phone. If you use Bluetooth, you don't have to have your phone mounted in your vehicle - but it's still a good idea.

Drivers on their L or P plates are not exempt. They are strictly forbidden to use a mobile phone at all times. These drivers are still developing their driving skills, and even the slightest distraction can impair their reaction times.

These rules have been brought in to prevent people from looking down (usually into their laps) while holding a mobile phone. Looking away from the windscreen means the driver is not watching the road; a mounted mobile phone (or, using a Bluetooth device) keeps drivers' eyes on the road and their concentration squarely where it should be.

i http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/using-roads/index.html

ii http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/geared/driving/driven_to_distraction.html