Mobile phones, technology & driving

Using a mobile phone or other device, like a Smartwatch, while driving or riding can be distracting, increasing your chance of being involved in a crash or near crash. Looking at or touching a device at the same time as being in control of a vehicle is particularly dangerous.

Victoria’s mobile phone rules

Learner, P1 and P2 drivers

Learner, P1 and P2 drivers must not use a mobile phone (hand-held or hands-free) for any function while driving (including while stationary but not parked).

Young drivers are over-represented in serious road crashes.

Mobile phones and other mobile devices (e.g. DVD players, tablet computers, Smartwatches) are major sources of distraction for young drivers, especially as these drivers are still building experience and developing skills.

Remember, all probationary drivers who reach 5 demerit points may incur a licence suspension.

Fully licensed car drivers

Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, except to make or receive a phone call or to use its audio/music functions provided the phone:

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle, or
  • can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone, and the phone is not resting on any part of the driver's body.

Using a phone as a navigational device/GPS while driving is prohibited unless it is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle. All other functions (including video calls, texting and emailing) are prohibited.

Motorcycle riders

The mobile phone rules for fully licensed car drivers also apply to motorcycle riders who hold a full car licence. However, riders who have held the motorcycle licence for less than three years are not permitted to use a mobile phone for any function while riding (including while stationary but not parked). Riders who hold a Learner, P1 or P2 licence are not permitted to use a mobile phone for any function while riding (including while stationary but not parked) either.

All drivers

All drivers face tough penalties for illegal use of a mobile phone or interacting with other units that have visual displays while driving (e.g. DVD players or tablet computers) that are not driver's aids.

The penalties are 4 demerit points and a $466 fine.

The penalties are 4 demerit points and a $466 fine.It’s a proven fact that using a mobile phone while driving can be distracting. Taking your eyes off the road for just 2 seconds or more doubles your crash risk. Research shows that the behaviour  of a manual or visual distraction whilst driving causes crashes and near misses.

Smartwatches

Smartwatches linked to phones or other devices perform a range of functions.  Some of these functions should not be used while driving because they are covered by the road rules that limit using mobile phones or visual display units. Drivers should therefore avoid using Smartwatches while driving.

When a Smartwatch is worn by a driver it should not be used while driving for making or receiving phone calls, navigation, music, text or video messaging, email or social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). 

Text or video messaging, email, social media use or similar communications should not be undertaken regardless of whether the Smartwatch is worn by the driver or not.

Fully licensed drivers may still use a Smartwatch provided it is not worn, and used as a:

  1. driver’s aid (for example, as a navigation device) OR
  2. music player OR
  3. mobile phone to make or receive phone calls;

AND

The driver does not touch anything on the Smartwatch (for example, making and receiving calls needs to be hands-free via Bluetooth or similar means) 
OR
is secured in a commercially designed mounting affixed to the vehicle (this may be unavailable).

Safe driving tips for mobile phones and other devices

Observe these tips to stay safe on the road:
  • Use Road Mode (External link) an android app that prevents you from being distracted by your phone while you drive.
  • If your phone has another app or function that prevents distraction while driving, you can also use that.
  • Consider putting your phone on silent and out of reach, or turn it off.
  • Divert all calls to voicemail.
  • Pull over safely and park to make or receive a call.
  • Plan breaks in your trip for phone calls.
  • Tell your family and friends not to call when you know you’ll be driving.
  • If you are using your phone hands free, warn callers you are driving and may have to end the call.
  • Don’t make calls in heavy traffic, poor road conditions or bad weather.
  • Never look up phone numbers.
  • Never read or send text messages.
  • Don’t use Smartwatches or other similar devices.
  • Remember, taking your eyes off the road for 2 seconds or more doubles your crash risk.
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 yourself or other road users.

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/video
  • 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 in Victoria face an on-the-spot fine of $466 and will incur 4 demerit points.

Learner, P1 and P2 drivers are not permitted to use a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving.

A driver must not drive a vehicle that has a television receiver or a visual display unit operating if any part of the screen is visible to the driver or is likely to distract another driver.

A driver can use a driver’s aid such as a navigation device but it must be an integrated part of the vehicle design, or secured in a commercially designed holder, which is fixed to the vehicle.

Exemptions

The rule relating to securing visual display units that are driver’s aids (e.g. navigational aids) does not apply to motorcyclists. This means that riders do not need a commercially designed mounting/cradle for their driver’s aid. However, riders must not hold the driver’s aid whilst riding.

Rule references

Road Safety Road Rules 2009

300 Use of mobile phones

299 Television receivers and visual display units in motor vehicles

To look up these rules and check for other related rules, please refer to the Acts and Regulations section.

Driving is complex and challenging. A simple way to make driving safer is to reduce the number of non-driving and distracting activities you undertake while driving.

Using a mobile phone while driving distracts you in many ways.

  • Physical distraction is caused by handling the phone while driving. For example, removing your hand from the steering wheel to dial a phone number, to answer or end a call.
  • Visual distraction is caused by the amount of time you have your eyes off the road. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds when driving at 50 km/h, means you travel for 27 metres effectively blind.
  • Cognitive distraction refers to lapses in attention and judgement. This happens when you have to perform two mental tasks at the same time. Having a conversation competes with the demands of driving - your attention is often changing from driving to the conversation. This results in unsafe driving and can increase the risk of a crash.

Research shows that using a mobile phone while driving can lead to danger.

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’s 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 do it 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.

If a dangerous situation develops, your passenger can stop talking and let you concentrate on driving. On a mobile phone, the person you’re talking to isn’t aware of the danger and will keep talking, further distracting you when your full concentration is needed.

Text messaging while driving results in physical, visual and cognitive distraction. Research shows that retrieving and sending text messages increases the amount of time a driver spends not looking at the road. Your eyes may be taken off the road for up to four times longer when text messaging compared to a driver who is not text messaging.

Text messaging while driving leads to:

  • incorrect lane changes
  • wandering from your lane
  • missing road signs and hazards like pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.

Even the best drivers have difficulty in processing two or more pieces of information at the same time, especially if the tasks are similar or they demand more attention than the driver can give at one time.

For example, it is more difficult to drive safely and have a simple conversation in a complex driving situation such as in peak hour, on unfamiliar roads, at night and in wet weather. It is less difficult to drive safely in light traffic while having a simple conversation with a passenger.

It is also more difficult to drive safely and have a complex conversation in light traffic. This conversation needs more attention and takes your mind off the road. When your mind’s not on the road, someone can die.

Safe driving tips and the mobile phone

Observe these tips to stay safe on the road.

  • Use Road Mode (External link) an android app that prevents you from being distracted by your phone while you drive.
  • Use voicemail.
  • Pull over safely and park to make or receive a call.
  • Plan breaks in your trip for phone calls.
  • Tell your family and friends not to call when you know you’ll be driving.
  • Tell callers you are driving and may have to end the call.
  • Don’t make calls in heavy traffic, poor road conditions or bad weather.
  • Never look up phone numbers.
  • Never read or send text messages.

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 yourself or other road users.

Further reading on mobile phone use while driving

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