What can I do with my phone while driving?

What can I do with my phone while driving?

At Ainsley Law we are often asked this question.  So much of our lives happen via our phones and we know that if we do the wrong things with phones while driving, we’ll get hit with a whopping fine and 5 demerit points.  Everyone is so caught up in what we can’t do that it can be hard to work out what we can do.

As a starting point, the rules are different in each state. Ainsley Law is based in NSW, so what follows applies to drivers in this state only.  For advice about the rules in other states, you will need to contact local firms.

In NSW if you are a full licence holder you are allowed to:

  1. Make and receive phone calls and play music on your phone only if:
    1. Your phone is mounted correctly in a specifically designed phone cradle, or
    2. If it is not mounted, you are not holding it (this includes not having it on your knee) and you do not at any time have to touch it, (so Bluetooth/voice operated).
  2. Use the phone as a driver’s aid (for example, navigation apps or the Uber dispatch system) only if the phone is mounted correctly in a specifically designed phone cradles. I will note that that some dispatch systems include messaging functions as and using these while driving is not allowed.
  3. Use your phone to pay at the McDonald’s drive through (or KFC… the rules don’t discriminate) or to scan a coupon to get into a carpark (or similar) only if you are off the road but still on a road related area and are stopped.
  4. Pass your phone to a passenger without looking at it or operating any of its functions.
  5. Receive messages to your phone only if they are received automatically and are not displayed on the screen.  Notifications can pop up, but a message itself cannot.
  6. Once you are safely parked, you can use any function of your phone.  This does not include stopped but not parked.

Your passengers are allowed to use their mobile phones as they please, but as the driver you are not allowed to look at or touch a passenger’s phone.  So a passenger cannot show you a text, photo or funny cat video while you are driving.

Unless you work for emergency services, everything else is not allowed, whether your phone is mounted or not.  This includes:

  • Holding your phone in your hand, even if it is not on a call, etc
  • Operating the phone in any way that is not listed above, such as emailing, messaging, taking photos, etc
  • Resting your phone on your knee.  It can be in a pocket, but we recommend not having it on your person at all
  • Looking at a phone when the screen is lit up

The only thing Learner and P Plate drivers are allowed to do with their mobile phones while driving is use them to pay for fast food in drive thrus, etc.  We suggest keeping your phone locked in the glove box or boot so that you can’t be tempted and if you are pulled over, there is no doubt that you did not use it.  Only get it out once you are safely parked. If you need to use navigation, invest in a GPS.

Overriding all of this, for obvious reasons, is a duty to drive safely and attentively.  So even if you are doing something that is allowed under the mobile phone rules, if it gets in the way of your driving and attention to the road, then it is dangerous and illegal.

Stay safe, and if you have any questions or have found yourself in trouble for using your mobile phone while driving, give Ainsley Law a call for personalised advice today.