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Mobile Phone Violations

In Canberra and elsewhere in Australia, it has become common to see drivers talking on a mobile telephone. It has become equally common to hear people complain that talking on a cellphone while driving is a distraction that causes traffic accidents. Whether that claim is justified or exaggerated, it has caused legislators in the ACT and elsewhere to make the use of a mobile phone while driving a traffic violation. In the ACT, the offence subjects the violator to a $357 fine and to the assessment of 3 demerit points.

Restrictions on mobile phone use

If your vehicle is not parked, section 300 of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Regulation 2000 makes it a violation to use a mobile phone. You are using a mobile phone when:

  • you are holding the phone (unless you are handing it to a passenger),
  • the phone is touching your body (unless it is in your pocket),
  • you are turning the phone on or off,
  • you are operating any of its functions,
  • you are looking at a display on the phone,
  • you are sending a text message, even if you are not holding the phone, or
  • you are sending a video, email, or any other electronic communication, even if you are not holding the phone.

You are allowed to use your phone if your vehicle is parked, but parked does not mean “not moving.” If you are stopped in traffic or waiting for a red light to change, you are not parked.

Making and receiving telephone calls

You can make and receive telephone calls using a mobile phone while driving under two circumstances.

First, you can dial or answer your mobile phone if it is secured in a mounting that is affixed to the vehicle in a way that is intended by the manufacturer. That generally means that the mounting is affixed to the dashboard so you can still see out the windshield when you touch your phone. Since you cannot hold the phone, you must be able to hear the caller without holding the phone to your ear. You cannot make your own mounting. You can only use a mounting that is commercially designed for holding mobile phones.

Second, if your mobile phone is not secured in a mounting, you can make or receive calls if you are using a hands-free wireless device (such as a Bluetooth device) that allows you to use the phone without touching it.

Receiving messages

  • It is a violation to receive a text message, email, video message, or other electronic communication on your mobile phone while driving unless:
  • the phone receives the communication automatically (that is, you take no action to download it), and
  • the communication is not displayed.

The display of a notification that a message has been received does not violate the rule. Reading the message while driving does violate the rule.

Exceptions to the rule

The mobile phone rules do not apply to:

  • CB and two-way radios
  • Passengers
  • Police and emergency vehicles

There is no exception for emergency calls. You must park your vehicle before making any call.

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