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Driving and mobile phones in Australia

Mobile-phone use can be a serious threat to road safety, for drivers and passengers as well as other vehicles. Hundreds of road crashes have been linked to hand-held mobile phone use in New South Wales alone1, and tens of thousands of drivers are fined each year for mobile phone use in the car.2 Avoiding distracted driving is common sense, but it also helps to know the rules so we can stay safe on the road.

Understanding the rules

Using hand-held mobile phones while driving is illegal in all states and territories of Australia.3 You can’t use your phone for any function, including talking, texting, gaming, or photos.3 However, mobile phone use in the car isn’t completely prohibited. You can use your mobile phone in some situations if you fulfil certain criteria. The rules vary slightly from state to state (or territory). Fines and demerit points apply for breach of these rules.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, Learner, P1, and P2 drivers and motorcyclists cannot use a mobile phone in any way while driving or riding. This applies even if you’re waiting at traffic lights or have come to a complete stop in unmoving traffic. If you want to use your phone while seated in your vehicle, you need to park out of the line of traffic. Fines, demerit points, and licence suspensions can apply.4

Fully licensed drivers and motorcyclists, and all bicycle riders can use their mobile phone to make a call and use it play music in two specific scenarios. One, you can use your phone if it’s in a cradle fixed to the vehicle and doesn't obscure your view of the road. Two, you can use your phone if it can be operated without touching any part of the phone, such as via Bluetooth or voice activation.4

As a fully licensed driver or motorcyclist, or a bike rider, you can also use your phone as a driver’s aid, such as for navigation and GPS, if it’s in a cradle fixed to the vehicle and doesn't obscure your view of the road. You can’t use your phone to text, email, interact on social media, or take photos unless you’re parking out of line of traffic.4

Queensland

In Queensland, Learner and P1 provisional drivers under 25 are not allowed to use hands-free, wireless headsets, or the loudspeaker function to use their phone while driving. The same loudspeaker function rule applies to passengers of these drivers or Passengers of these drivers are also not allowed to use the loudspeaker function.5

No drivers, regardless of licence type, are permitted to hold their phone in their hand while driving, even if they’ve stopped in traffic. You can’t hold your phone next to or near your ear with your hand, text or read texts, switch your phone on or off, or use your phone in any way. You can hold your phone in your hand and use it only if you’re legally parked.5

However, if you have an open or P2 provisional licence, you may talk on your phone if you have a hands-free kit installed. Mobile phones in a mounting bracket on windscreens must not obscure the driver’s view of the road.5

Victoria

In Victoria, Learner, P1 and P2 drivers, and certain motorcyclists (those who’ve held their licence for less than three years) are not permitted to use mobile phones, whether hand-held or hands-free, while driving or riding.3

Drivers and motorcyclists with full licences, however, can make and receive calls or play music provided the phone is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the car. If it’s not secured in such a way, it must be able of being operated by the driver without touch and must not be resting anywhere on the driver’s body. If you’re using your phone as a navigational device or GPS, it also needs to be in a commercial designed holder fixed to the car. Video calling, texting, and emailing are prohibited.3

Western Australia

In Western Australia, you’re only permitted to touch your phone to receive and terminate calls if it’s secured in a mounting or hands-free device fixed to the car. If it’s not secured in such a way, you can only use it to receive and end calls through voice activation, such as through a headset or a Bluetooth hands-free car kit, without touch.6

Drivers can’t create or send text messages, video messages, email, or other similar communications. This applies even if your phone is on a mounting and you can operate these functions without touch. You can use GPS only if you don’t need to touch the keypad or screen to operate it.6

Other states and territories

If you’re living in or driving in other states and territories, check the applicable rules before using your mobile phone.

  • Australian Capital Territory – Drivers can make or receive calls provided the phone is mounted or can be operated hands-free.7
  • Northern Territory – Learner and provisional licence holders can’t use their phone in any way and hand-held-phone use is prohibited.8
  • South Australia – Learners and P1 licence holders can’t use their phones in any way while driving, but full licence holders can if they use hands-free features or have their phone secured in a mounting.9
  • Tasmania – Similar rules about hands-free and mountings apply to drivers in Tasmania.10

In summary, Australian drivers with full licenses are usually able to make or receive calls if they have their phones mounted or use hands-free functions and tools. Learner and other provisional licence holders are subject to stricter rules in every state and territory. These rules are the minimum requirements under law, but you can always exercise extra caution and park in out of the way of traffic before using your phone in any way.

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References

  1. Get your hand off itTransport NSW
  2. Older drivers 'worst offenders' as NSW Police target mobile phone use while drivingABC News
  3. Mobile phones, technology & drivingVic Roads
  4. Know the rulesTransport NSW
  5. Driving and mobile phonesQueensland Government
  6. Mobile PhonesGovernment of Western Australia
  7. Driver distractionACT Policing
  8. Traffic offences and penaltiesNorthern Territory Government information and services
  9. Mobile phonesMy Licence
  10. TAS LawsKeep Your Eyes on the Road

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