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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Using A Mobile Phone While Driving (Vic)


Use of a mobile phone while driving can be a major distraction, and greatly increases the risk of being involved in a crash. For this reason, the Road Safety Act 1986, Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2019 and Road Safety Road Rules 2017 restrict the use of mobile phones by drivers and impose hefty penalties on those who break the rules.

Why mobile phone use while driving is dangerous

Distraction is the key reason mobile phone use while driving is dangerous. This can be physical, such as taking a hand off the wheel to touch the phone screen; or visual, when a driver takes their eyes off the road; or cognitive, when there is a lapse in a driver’s attention and judgement. Research has shown dangers include:

  • riskier decision making;
  • slower reactions;
  • slower and less controlled braking;
  • crossing into another lane;
  • lack of awareness of hazards, such as pedestrians or roadworks.

Learner and provisional licence holders

Drivers holding these licences must not use a mobile phone for any purpose while driving. This includes hand-held, hands-free, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Open car licence holders

Drivers holding this licence can use a mobile phone to:

  • make or receive a call;
  • use its audio or music functions;
  • navigate via GPS or intelligent highway vehicle system;

but only if the phone:

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder attached to the vehicle; or
  • can be operated by the driver without them touching it.

Using the phone for any other purpose is prohibited.

Motorcycle riders

Motorcycle riders who hold an open car licence are subject to the same mobile phone rules as open car licence holders.

Riders who have held their motorcycle licence for less than three years must not use a mobile phone for any purpose. This prohibition also applies to riders who hold a learner or provisional licence.

The use of ear buds is allowed for fully licensed riders if the phone is in a cradle or used hands-free. Non-mobile phone navigation or GPS devices can be used with ear buds by all riders but authorities do not recommend this because ear buds block sounds made by other traffic, which impairs rider awareness.

Bicycle riders and users of other wheeled recreational vehicles

In this category, a mobile phone can be used to:

  • make or receive a call;
  • use its audio or music functions;
  • navigate via GPS;

but only if the phone:

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder attached to the vehicle; or
  • can be operated by the rider without them touching it (but it can be in a pocket).

Smartwatches

The use of some smartwatch functions is prohibited for drivers, so drivers should avoid using smartwatches. However, as long as the device is not worn, an open car licence holder can use it to:

  • make or receive a call;
  • play music;
  • navigate via GPS.

A smartwatch can also be used if it is:

  • secured in a commercially designed holder attached to the vehicle; or
  • operated by the driver without them touching it, such as hands-free via Bluetooth.

Visual display units

Devices such as GPS units and tablets are classed as visual display units. A driver must not drive with any part of the screen visible to them and likely to distract them. A driver can use a visual display unit only if the car is legally parked or off the road.

However, a GPS device is a visual display unit considered to be a “driver’s aid”, so its use is permitted provided:

  • the driver is not holding the unit in their hand; or
  • the unit is an integrated part of the vehicle design; or
  • the unit is secured in a commercially designed holder attached to the vehicle.

Penalties

The penalty for illegal use of a mobile phone while driving is a $496 fine and 4 demerit points.

In the 2017-18 financial year, more than 30,000 motorists were fined for using a mobile phone illegally while driving in Victoria.

Safe driving tips for mobile phone use

There are many ways to avoid the risk of mobile phone use while driving. A driver can:

  • put the phone on silent and out of reach, or turn it off;
  • divert all calls to voice mail;
  • activate the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” iPhone feature (which sends a text message to any caller that the phone user is driving and cannot be reached);
  • pull over and park to make or receive a call;
  • plan breaks in a trip for calls;
  • when using a phone hands-free, advise callers they are driving and may have to end the call, or arrange to call back when stopped.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Lawyers.

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