If you’re one of the many drivers who uses road-time for phone calls, it’s worth knowing exactly what the latest NSW road rules say.
Most drivers know that holding a mobile phone to your ear while driving is against the law. But many of us chat using speakerphone and other strategies that ‘feel safe’, not knowing that what we’re doing may be against the law.
To help you stay out of trouble (and alive), here’s some of the legal and illegal practices you may not be aware of. (Remember, the following rules are for drivers on their full license or Green P’s. Drivers on their L-plates or P1 licence, can’t use the phone at all).
Did You Know These Mobile Phone Habits Are Illegal?
- Touching your phone at all while driving, is illegal. Even if it’s in a cradle and you’re just swiping to take a call or open a text, it’s still against the law. The only legal way to take or make a call is to have the phone in a cradle and use voice-activation or Bluetooth hands-free technology.
- It’s even illegal when you’re at a red light or in a traffic-jam. Using your phone in these situations may feel safe as you’re not moving, but the authorities have decided our eyes need to be on the lights and the traffic instead. If you do need to touch the phone – even just to find a contact or check your messages – you must be parked in a proper parking spot – out of the line of traffic.
- Talking with the phone on speaker while it’s sitting in your lap – or tucked under your brastrap – is also against the law. It’s illegal to have your mobile phone touching any part of your body, other than to pass it to a passenger.
- Changing the destination on your navigation app while driving is also against the law. You need to set your destination before you hit the road.
- Checking social media, taking videos, taking selfies are all illegal if you’re on the road. Yes, even at traffic lights.
But Here’s What You CAN Do With Your Phone While Driving
- Making calls is fine as long as you can do the whole process hands-free, using voice-activation or Bluetooth technology (and as long as you’re on your ‘Green Ps’ or your full license). Your phone can be either an approved cradle, or a pocket of your clothing.
- Picking your phone up and passing it to a passenger is also legal. This law encourages drivers to pass calls to someone else rather than using the phone themselves.
- Listening to music or using a GPS app on your phone is OK, if you don’t touch your phone. That means you need to set up your playlist or your destination settings before you start driving, put the phone in a cradle—and don’t change songs while driving (unless you can do so with hands-free technology).
- Your phone holder must be commercially manufactured and designed (cup-holders and dashboards don’t count), fixed to the vehicle, and must not obscure your view of the road.
‘Get Your Hands Off It’ A Message With Humour
A series of videos was made by the NSW Centre for Road Safety to drive home the ‘don’t touch your phone’ message. The campaign began last year with a Derek Anderson music video parodying all the excuses we make, such as “but I’m at a red light”, “but I never look down”, “but there’s no traffic around”, and “I’ve been doing this for years and I’m still alive”.
The latest, the ‘Are You Driving Blind’ video, shows the potentially lethal effect of simply checking and sending a text message. The NSW Centre for Road Safety says that even legal use of mobile phones can be distracting, so it’s worth considering whether your current traffic environment is safe for a phone conversation.
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- For more details on the NSW road rules around mobile phones and driving, see the NSW Centre For Road Safety.