A Guide on the Law on Using a Mobile Phone While Driving in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

The message about the dangers of using your mobile phone while driving may not be getting through to motorists, or so it seems.

Indeed, across Australia, authorities continue to collect up to tens of millions of dollars in fines each year from drivers caught scrolling through their smartphones from behind the wheel.

But even the increasingly monstrous fines don’t appear to be doing much to deter road users from engaging in the hazardous act.

This was certainly the case for a South Australian man who was spotted by police allegedly playing on his phone as he drove his truck along an expressway.

Evidently distracted, the 56-year-old man was stopped and issued a substantial fine without delay.

 

The Obvious Move That Allowed Police Officers to Catch the Truck Driver on His Mobile Phone

It is reported that on 7 May 2020, police were travelling along the Southern Expressway in the southern suburbs of Adelaide for Operation Fatal Distraction, designed to target motorists who use their phone while driving.

According to a statement released by South Australia Police, around 10am, officers suddenly had their attention drawn as they noticed a truck driving below the speed limit.

Upon closer inspection, they discovered the man behind the wheel was allegedly not paying attention to the road, leading to their observation that the truck driver was, in fact, using a hand held mobile phone as he continued to drive on.

Police quickly stopped the driver for the distraction-based offence and issued the unrestricted licence holder with a fine.

Under South Australian law, being caught using a hand held mobile phone while driving attracts a painful fine of $534.

The offence also incurs three demerit points in SA.

 

Operation Fatal Distraction: South Australia Police’s Strategy to Target Distracted Drivers

During the second week of May, a state-wide operation was launched to target South Australian drivers for distraction-based offences, including using a phone, interacting with social media, and any other behaviour causing inattention while behind the wheel.

South Australia Police began Operation Fatal Distraction at 12:01am on Monday 4 May, setting out to pursue any motorist who appeared distracted while driving.

The week-long blitz was in place until 11:59pm on Friday 8 May.

Speaking about the operation, Officer in Charge of the Traffic Services Branch, Superintendent Bob Gray, warned that there’s no excuse for even a fleeting look at your phone when you are in the driver’s seat.

“Even if you’re just driving a short distance to the supermarket or doctors, there’s no excuse for even just glancing at your phone,” Superintendent Gray said.

“Crashes can happen in a split second – if your eyes are on your phone, you won’t see changes before it’s too late to take action.”

Superintendent Gray also underscored the importance of abiding by the rules particularly amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 climate.

“There’s so much uncertainty going on in the world right now,” he said.

“But one thing that’s certain is that causing a crash or taking a life because you picked up your phone is not the choice you want to make.”

In 2019, 46 lives were lost in collisions where distraction was a contributing factor.

Worryingly, in 2020, there have already been 24 lives lost due to distraction behind the wheel.

In NSW, the penalty for using a mobile phone while driving as an unrestricted licence holder is a fine of $344 and 5 demerit points, according to rule 300(1) Road Rules 2014 (NSW).

If you elect to dispute the matter in the Local Court before a Magistrate, the maximum penalty you can face is a fine of $2,200 and 5 demerit points. This is referred to as a court electing a fine of using mobile phone while driving offence in NSW.

It’s a traffic offence to drive a vehicle on a NSW road while using a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or while it’s stationary but not parked.

The exception to this law is if the phone’s being used to make or receive audio calls or to perform an audio playing function either:

  • While the body of the phone’s secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being so used; or
  • Where the body of the phone isn’t secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle and isn’t being held by the driver, while the use of the phone doesn’t require the driver at any such time to press anything on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone.

The other exception to the rule include:

  • Where the phone’s functioning as a visual display unit that’s being used as a driver’s aid if the phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle; or
  • The vehicle’s an emergency or police vehicle.

Click here for an outline on how many demerit points everyone gets in NSW.

‘L’ or ‘P’ plate licence holders in NSW are simply not allowed to use a mobile phone whilst driving, regardless of whether or not it’s held by the driver or being used via Bluetooth, wifi, or via being secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle.

Have a question? Speak to our expert traffic lawyers in Sydney today. We’re available 24/7.

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