New Mobile Phone Rules for Drivers (Qld)
In July 2021, the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulation 2009 was amended to make it an offence for the driver of a vehicle to hold a mobile phone in their hand, or rest the phone on any part of their body, while the vehicle is moving, or stationary but not parked. The rule was based on the safety risk of the driver taking their eyes off the road, their attention away from the task of driving, and their hands off the steering wheel.
Section 300 of the Regulation states the driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving or stationary but not parked. The maximum penalty is 20 penalty units ($2750.70).
This does not apply when:
- the phone is in a driver’s pocket or a pouch worn by the driver and does not allow any phone function other than the use of the driver’s voice and does not allow the driver to see the phone screen;
- the vehicle is stationary and the phone is in a wallet and the driver uses the phone:
- to obtain and show a licence, permit, authority or other document to a police officer or other officer;
- to obtain or use money or another form of payment, to pay for goods or services, such as at a drive-through retail outlet;
- to obtain and use a card or other thing to enter a road-related area or land adjacent to a road-related area, such as a car park.
“Use” of the phone includes operating any function of the phone, such as:
- holding the phone to or near the ear, whether engaged in a phone call or not;
- writing, sending or reading a test message;
- turning the phone on or off.
Additional mobile phone restrictions
Learner and P1 drivers aged under 25 must not use a mobile phone under any circumstances while driving. This includes hands-free, wireless headsets and speaker phones. The penalty is a $1033 fine and 4 demerit points. For a repeat offence committed within 12 months, 8 demerit points apply. A learner driver who accrues 4 or more demerit points within a 12-month period is automatically suspended from driving for 3 months.
Open and P2 drivers can use a mobile phone hands-free, such as when the phone is in a cradle attached to the vehicle. The phone’s position must not obscure the driver’s view of the road.
The rationale for the offence
Mobile phone use while driving is one of the most prevalent behaviours that cause driver distraction. Driver distraction which is one of Queensland’s “Fatal Five” behaviours that lead to crashes, the others being drink driving, fatigue, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.
On February 1, 2020, the penalty for illegal use of a mobile phone while driving was increased from a $400 fine and 3 demerits points to a $1033 fine and 4 demerit points. For a repeat offence committed within 12 months, the penalty is a $1033 fine and 8 demerit points. Enforcement relied on roadside police observing an offence, and research showed a common strategy to avoid police detection of mobile phone use during driving was for a driver to hold the phone around their lap.
Even when a driver has a phone resting in their lap, they can be tempted to look down at the phone, especially to view notifications, or to tap to browse. If the phone falls from the driver’s lap, such as during turning the vehicle or braking, the phone can fall into the footwell, or beside or under the driver’s seat. A driver is likely to reach down to retrieve it, taking their attention away from the road, or the phone may dangerously lodge behind one of the vehicle’s pedals.
Camera detection trial
In the second half of 2020, the Queensland Government trialled cameras that used Artificial Intelligence software. The software could detect, with a high degree of accuracy, whether a driver was using their mobile phone illegally or failing to wear a seatbelt. The cameras detected more than 15,000 mobile phone offences and more than 2200 seat belt offences from 4.8 million vehicles monitored. The cameras were to be rolled out across the state from the end of July 2021.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.