Complete guide: How to avoid $1000 mobile phone fine
AUSTRALIA'S toughest regime around phone use while driving comes into effect in Queensland this weekend.
Drivers busted on their phones face $1000 fines and four demerit points from Saturday.
The Courier-Mail has taken a deep dive into what will and won't cause you to take a hit the pocket and more importantly be a risk to yourself and others.
What the law says
The Queensland Road Rules say a driver "must not use a mobile phone that the driver is holding … while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked".
Using a phone includes holding it next to your ear, texting, reading a text, turning the phone on or off or any other function of the device.
Put simply if you pick up your phone while driving, you're a fool and a lot poorer one. This includes when stopped at traffic lights.
This means no texting, no answering phone calls and no scrolling Spotify to play the latest Billie Eilish banger.
To legally use a phone, that's held in your hand, a driver must be legally parked. No exceptions.
Can you use your phone to 'tap and go' at a drive through?
Brisbane solicitor Mengpei Gao, principal at Ascent Lawyers, says "unfortunately no".
"A driver of a vehicle (except an emergency vehicle or police vehicle) must not use a mobile phone, including to "tap and go" pay, while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked," she told the Courier Mail.
"A driver may stop the engine to park at a drive through to "tap and go" pay."
Queensland Police said it was "not the intent of the mobile phone rules to stop drivers from paying with their phones in a drive-through".
"(However) as Queensland road rules could apply to a drive-through, it is recommended that the park brake is engaged if a mobile phone is being used for payment," police said.
Can you use your phone if it is hands free?
According to Transport and Main Roads, open and P2 licence holders are allowed "limited use" of a mobile phone if it is used hands-free. This includes Bluetooth or a cradle attached to the vehicle's dash or windscreen that doesn't obscure the view of the road. This can include to accept calls, run Google Maps, or accept/finish a trip as a rideshare driver
Hands-free use can still attract fines and demerit points if the driver isn't in proper control of the vehicle. However the driver will be fined under distracted driver laws, that carry smaller on the spot fines, not the specific mobile phone rule.
Can you tap the screen if it's in a holder?
Ms Gao said this is a "tricky" one because there is no specific law about it.
"Drivers are not recommended to tap the screen of phones placed on hands-free holders," she said.
" If a driver is caught for doing so, he/she might be charged with the offence of careless driving for driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users."
In response to the question TMR simply said "open and P2 licence holders are allowed hands-free use of a mobile phone".
Learner and P1 provisional licence holders aged under 25 years are banned outright from using any function on a mobile phone while driving or riding, including Google Maps. This includes hands-free, wireless headsets, Bluetooth or the phone's loudspeaker function. Their passengers are also prohibited from using a mobile phone's loudspeaker function.
And it's not just novice drivers who can get in trouble thanks to the actions of their passengers. Depending on the circumstances, any driver can be fined if a passenger is using a phone in a way that distracts them.
"Using a mobile phone in a manner distracting the driver will affect the driver's proper control of their vehicle. A passenger can be fined up to $2,669 ($170 on the spot)," Ms Gao said.
"If a passenger holds a mobile phone with a visual display while the vehicle is moving, and the image on the screen is visible to the driver from the normal driving position or is likely to distract another driver, the driver must not drive. Otherwise, the driver can be fined up to $2,669 ($400 on the spot)."
Exceptions apply if the phone is used as a navigational aid.
Ms Gao said there was no law stopping drivers from putting their phones in their laps.
"However, the temptation of keeping our hands off our mobile phones in the lap can be both challenging and overwhelming," she said.
"Drivers are therefore not recommended to put their phones in the lap."
Queensland Police also advised to store it elsewhere "due to the risk of the
phone falling into the driver's footwell and potentially obstructing foot pedals".
Watch this space
The Australian Road Rules, which inform state laws, date back to 1999, predating smartphones by almost ten years.
The National Transport Commission is currently undertaking work to update the rules so they align with advances in technology. This means mobile phone laws could be overhauled.
Executive Lead on Safety at NTC, Mandi Mees, said it has focused on high risk behaviours involving technology that cause the greatest road safety risk.
It is expected to make recommendations to state transport ministers this year around text and video based interactions and long glances away from the road.
"The research says that when a driver glances off the forward looking roadway for more than two seconds, it doubles their crash risk," she said.
TMR and Queensland Police are expected to trial camera enforcement technology to detect drivers using their mobile phones illegally this year.
NEW LAWS EXPLAINED
- Tap and go pay at drive-throughs
- Changing music
- Answering a call/ending a call
- Passenger distraction
- Any other phone function
- Limited use of hands free for open and P2 licence holders*.
- It's heavily discouraged but drivers can keep their phone on their lap.
- Learner and P1 provisional licence holders aged under 25 years are banned outright from using any function on a mobile phone while driving.
- Passengers in their cars also forbidden from using phone loudspeaker.
What's at stake
- $1000 fine and four demerit points
- Double demerit points for drivers caught twice in 12 months
- Learner drivers will automatically lose their licence for three months
- Provisional licence holders will face a three month suspension or a one year good driving behaviour period.