New mobile phone penalties start in September

From September 1 drivers caught texting, emailing, watching video content and accessing social media on their phone will face a $1000 fine and four-demerit points.

NEW penalties for illegal mobile phone use while driving will now start on September 1.

Police and Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts said drivers were only permitted to touch their phone while it was mounted in a cradle and only to accept or end a voice call.

From September 1, drivers caught holding or touching their phone to make a voice call when it is not mounted in a cradle will receive an increased penalty of $500 and three demerit points.

Mrs Roberts said the creation of an aggravated offence for drivers caught texting, emailing, watching video content, accessing social media or any other functions on their phone would carry a $1000 fine and four-demerit points.

She said this took into account the deliberate and more dangerous risk taking behaviour, which can result in a higher level of driver distraction.

Exceptions will be made to allow on-demand drivers to touch their phones to accept new jobs while driving, where it is safe to do so and if the phone is in a mount secured to the vehicle.

But they will not be able to accept or decline jobs by touching their mobile phones if they are travelling in a school zone during the school zone activated period, on the freeway, on a road with a speed limit of 80km/h or more or in a SLOMO or slow down, move over situation, where a vehicle must slow down to 40km/h to pass an emergency response vehicle with lights activated parked on the side of the road.

Presently rideshare drivers can only accept new jobs by touching the phone if they are safely parked.

The amendments will place rideshare drivers on a similar footing to taxi drivers in relation to booking transactions.

Any driver can set their mobile phone as a navigational tool prior to their journey (and glance at the screen to follow their route) but it is illegal to touch the screen to change the route or use any other function of the navigational tool while the vehicle is moving or stationary but not parked.

Mrs Roberts said texting, emailing, FaceTiming or watching videos while driving was incredibly dangerous.

“It can be deadly – it’s like driving with your eyes shut,’’ she said.

“Let’s give the roads our full attention and all drive safer.”

She said implementation of the amended penalties had been revised due to Covid-19 and system updates.