What’s the Law and Penalties for Having a TV or Visual Display Unit in your Vehicle in NSW?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

As the ICC Cricket World Cup kicked off last month in merry old England, many of us wondered, if you can’t afford a plane ticket and time off work, how do you possibly catch every match?

Of course, the internet came to the rescue, and for Australian fans looking for a stream, there were even plenty of options to choose from.

But it’s safe to say that for some fanatics, catching the coverage of the tournament live may have reached extreme levels of desperation.

Much like this 33-year-old man from Liverpool in Sydney who was so eager to catch the live updates of the India vs Australia match that he actually strapped his mobile phone to the steering wheel so he could watch the match whilst driving.

 

Police Officer in Disbelief as Man Uses Phone as Visual Display Unit to Watch India v Australia Cricket Match

On 9 June 2019, at around 10pm, the Liverpool driver was pulled over by the Fairfield Highway Patrol after he was caught driving at 96 kilometres per hour in a signposted 70 kilometres per hour zone on the Cumberland Highway, Smithfield.

It was at this point that officers discovered the driver had attached his mobile phone to the steering wheel so he could see the live score updates of the cricket world cup match between India and Australia.

He was also using it for navigation.

In a video of the incident released by the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, a police officer can be heard left almost lost for words as he informs the driver that his phone set-up is hazardous.

“There’s a mobile phone on your steering wheel. So you can’t have that,” the officer says, moving the wheel back and forth as the phone spins around.

The driver simply responds with an, “Oh, ok,” before the officer cuts him off and tells him, “That’s so dangerous. I have never seen that before in my life. What is holding that on?”

“It is just… It is actually a mobile holder,” the driver says after switching on the light and revealing the holder to the officer.

With disbelief, the officer asks for clarification from the driver whether he is actually driving around like that, to which the man is heard replying with a meagre “yeah”.

To make matters worse, a toddler was also found wrongly restrained sitting in the back of the car.

 

Man Loses Licence and Cops 24 Demerit Points – Nearly Double the Number of Points to Lose a Licence

The driver was hit with three infringement notices – for speeding, using a mobile phone, and having a child incorrectly restrained.

With double demerits in force for the Queen’s birthday long weekend, in total, the cricket fan received a whopping 24 demerit points – nearly double the number of points it takes to lose a licence.

 

Police Call for Safer Driving to Avoid Crashes Following Incident

Shortly after the incident, police said there had been 201 major crashes across the state. The course of the long weekend accounted for 63 people injured and four deaths. Three of the deaths were in southern NSW.

They also addressed that 3381 speeding infringements had been issued, and 370 people had been caught without seatbelts.

Furthermore, after 162,938 breath tests, 204 people had been charged with drink-driving.

Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy, urged drivers to be sensible and patient in the aftermath of the long weekend.

“If you are caught in traffic, be patient. You should not let your current circumstances tempt you into taking risks that place you or your family in more danger of being involved in a crash,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said.

“You need to be prepared for the unexpected and drive to conditions.”

 

Can Drivers be Penalised for Using Television Receivers and Visual Display Units in Vehicles in NSW?

In NSW, a driver is not permitted to drive a vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen:

(a) is visible to the driver from the normal driving position, or
(b) is likely to distract another driver.”

This is outlined in Regulation 299 of the Road Rules 2014, and accordingly, makes it an offence for the phone’s “visual display” to be “visible to the driver”.

Put simply, this means that it is an offence to merely have your phone sitting next to you if its screen is turned on.

So, strapping your mobile phone to your steering wheel in order to watch the cricket or a cat video on YouTube is a big no no.

As long as the phone’s visual display is visible to the driver, it is considered a distraction to you driving and you are violating the law.

The Penalties for Using Television Receivers and Visual Display Units in Vehicles in NSW

In NSW, the penalties for using television receivers and visual display units in vehicles is reflected in rule 299 Road Rules 2014 (NSW).

The maximum penalty that a NSW court can impose is a $2,200 fine to a driver who drives a vehicle containing a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle’s moving (or is stationary but not parked) if:

  • Any part of the screen image is visible to the driver from the normal driving position; or
  • Any part of the screen image is likely to distract another driver.

Exceptions to this rule is if:

  • The person is driving a bus where the visual display unit is or displays a destination sign or other bus sign; or
  • The visual display unit is being used as a driver’s aid and is an integrated part of the vehicle design or is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being used; or
  • The visual display unit is a mobile data terminal that is fitted to a police vehicle or an emergency vehicle.

Where the visual display unit is used as the driver’s aid and is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being used, the visual display unit is considered to be secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle if:

  • The mounting is commercially designed and manufactured for this purpose; and
  • The unit is secured in the mounting, and the mounting is affixed to the vehicle in a manner intended by the manufacturer.

Because this is a penalty notice offence, a police officer can and normally do issue driver’s with a fine of $344 on the spot. Paying the fine finalises the matter and there is no requirement to appear in court.

The offence also carries 3 demerit points.

As with all penalty notice offences, it can be court-elected if you wish to avoid the demerit points and fine.

A driver will end up avoiding demerit points and fine if the Court is convinced enough to impose a non-conviction penalty as a sentence even after pleading guilty in court, or where the court concludes you are ‘not guilty’ after a hearing.

To maximise the chances of avoiding a conviction so that no demerit points and fine are incurred, it is important to prepare good character letters for court and an apology letter for the Magistrate to read in court.

Here is a guide on how to represent yourself in court for a penalty notice offence.

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