Mobile Phones and Driving

Using a mobile phone while driving can be distracting. Research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving may increase your chance of a crash by as much as four times.

The law

It is illegal in all Australian states and territories to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. This includes:

  • Talking
  • Texting
  • Playing games
  • Taking photos/videos
  • Using any other function on your phone

Using a hand held mobile phone is also illegal when your vehicle is stationary but not parked e.g. when you’re stopped at traffic lights. Drivers who break this law can face an on-the-spot fine and incur demerit points.

For experienced drivers, use of a hands free device can be legal in defined circumstances, see laws in your state for details.

A hands-free device can reduce the physical effort to make and receive calls but it doesn't necessarily make it safe to use a phone while driving. It is illegal to use a hands-free phone while driving if it causes you to lose proper control of your vehicle. The penalty is a significant fine and demerit points.

If you must talk on a hands-free phone while driving:

  • Make sure it is a hands-free phone that is set up and working before you start driving.
  • Keep the conversation short. Don't engage in complex or emotional conversations.
  • Tell the person on the other end that you are driving and may have to end the call.
  • Never text message (SMS) while driving.
  • End the call if it is distracting you from driving.
  • Don’t make calls in heavy traffic, poor road conditions or bad weather.

Remember, if you don't have proper control of your vehicle because you are talking on a hands-free mobile phone you are guilty of an offence.

No mobile phone use by learner and P1 provisional drivers and riders

Learner and provisional drivers and riders must not use a mobile phone while driving or riding.

This includes phones in the hands-free mode or with loud speaker operating, sending or receiving SMS messages, playing games or any other function on your phone.

Learner and P1 drivers and provisional drivers are developing their vehicle control, hazard perception skills. Mobile phone use can distract the novice drivers and riders from the driving task. Studies have found that using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous as it slows reaction times and interferes with a driver’s perception skills and increases the chance of having a crash.

Why it’s dangerous to use a mobile phone while driving?

Research shows that dialling and talking on a mobile phone while driving can lead to:

  • Riskier decision making
    Deciding when it is safe to turn in traffic is a complex task. Using a mobile phone while driving affects judgement and concentration and you may fail to choose a safe gap. When making a decision to turn across oncoming traffic, you also tend not to consider the environmental conditions such as, when it is raining or the roads are slippery. If you don’t make safe turns you could crash.
  • Slower reactions
    You generally react slower when using a mobile phone, particularly when you’re deep in conversation. You may take longer to respond to traffic signals or completely miss them.
  • Slower and less controlled braking
    During a mobile phone call your brake reaction time is slower, and you brake with more force and less control which results in shorter stopping distances available between yourself and the car in front.
  • Wandering out of your lane
    You’re more likely to wander out of your lane when you’re using a mobile phone, even on a straight road with little traffic.
  • Not being alert to your surroundings
    When using a mobile phone, you tend to spend less time checking your mirrors and what’s going on around you. This affects your ability to monitor and negotiate traffic safely.

A mobile phone can be important in an emergency. If you need to use your mobile phone to call for help, stop and park safely where you will not endanger other road users.

More information on restrictions by state

New South Wales

http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/driverdistractions/index.html

Victoria

http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SafetyIssues/MobilePhonesAndDriving.htm

Western Australia

http://www.ors.wa.gov.au/Road-Safety-Topics/Road-Issues/Distractions

Queensland

http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Licensing/Getting-a-licence/Car-licence/Provisional-licence/Restrictions/Mobile-phones.aspx

South Australia

http://www.dpti.sa.gov.au/roadsafety/Safer_behaviours/inattention/faqs_on_mobile_phone_usage

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