Rules about Mobile Phones and Driving

Written by Geoff Watt

During the Safer Drivers Course, students have a chance to ask questions.  The question which comes up every single time is around mobile phones, and what is permitted.

First we should clarify just what is allowed for Learner Drivers (or those on their Provisional Licence),

Make or receive audio phone call – No
Use music or audio functions – No
Use as a driver's aid (e.g. navigation) – No
Apple CarPlay / Android Auto – No

Restricted licences holders including learner, P1 and P2 drivers and riders are not permitted to use their phone at all while driving or riding. This includes use of hands-free and Bluetooth functions.

This seems quite restrictive, but they are designed to save lives.

Your parents might be confused about this, prior to 2016 Green P drivers could use a mobile phone.  This was changed in December 2016.

So, can a Learners or P plate driver use a GPS device that is not a phone? Yes. A GPS device that is not a mobile phone is permitted for all drivers, as long as the device is secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle and does not obscure the driver’s view of the road.  Many vehicles have inbuilt GPS functionality, so look for this when choosing a vehicle. 

Why is a GPS unit okay, but not a phone? because phones posed a "higher risk for inexperienced drivers than a purpose-built GPS as there is the temptation to use it for other functions."  This is from the NSW Centre for Road Safety.

Well, can I eat or drink whilst driving.  Technically it is not illegal to eat while driving in NSW. However, the NSW state government has been seriously cracking down on dangerous driving (or 'distracted-driving').  So if you are not focused on the road, you could still be fined and potentially lose your licence.

What about passengers?  A driver in NSW can still be fined with demerit points if the passenger is using a mobile phone if the image or screen from the phone is visible to the driver from the normal driving position or is likely to distract another driver, according to rule 299 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW).  This carries an on-the-spot fine or penalty notice of $349 with 3 demerit points.  Your passenger will also receive a fine if their usage is likely to distract a driver, the maximum penalty attracts $349.

Remember, your crash risk as a Provisional Driver is much higher than it will be when you get to an unrestricted licence. 

The best advice is to turn off your phone and put it in the glove box before you start your car.

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