The issue of mobile phone use while driving made news headlines recently when it was discovered that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had been texting while driving. While the danger of this activity is widely known – using one’s phone while driving is one of the most common distractions while driving – what is less commonly known is the new laws to take effect in New South Wales over the Christmas 2015 period and from 22 January 2016, which will see tougher penalties for those caught texting and driving. As such, it is important to be aware of the legal implications of this activity as a further deterrence.
Texting and Driving: Learner and Provisional P1 Licence Holders
Currently, drivers on Learner and P1 licences must not use their mobile phones at all whilst driving. This includes talking on the phone, playing music, using navigational apps and, of course, texting – even if the phone is connected to a hands free device. To use a mobile phone, the car must be turned off, parked and out of the line of traffic. Under the new laws, these restrictions will remain the same. However, breach of these restrictions will result in the loss of four demerit points and subsequently a 3 month licence suspension.
Texting and Driving: P2 and Full Licence Holders
Currently, P2 and full licence holders are only permitted to use their mobile phones when the phone is connected to a hands free device that does not require any part of the phone to be touched or held. This means that drivers can talk on the phone, play music and use driving related apps such as navigation apps that do not require touching the phone. The phone must be connected to a hands free device – it is still illegal for the phone to sit on the driver’s lap while on loudspeaker. Of course, even though these activities are legal, this does not means they will always be safe or appropriate for the driving conditions.
Drivers cannot touch their phones at all while driving unless they are passing it to a passenger. Further, drivers cannot text at all, including the audio text function; use social media; video message; or take photos or videos – even if the phone is connected to a hands free device.
Importantly, breach of any of these unlawful activities resulted in the loss of double demerit points during the Christmas 2015 period and will be included in the upcoming Australia Day Long Weekend Double Demerits (22 January 2016 – 26 January 2016). Further, from 22 January 2016, breach of the above will result in the loss of four, rather than the previous three, demerit points.
If you have been involved in a traffic related offence and would like advice, give us a call on 02 8917 8700 or fill out the enquiry box detailing your issue and we will get back to you ASAP.