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Victoria impose stiff penalties on drivers who use a mobile phone while driving

The penalties are more severe for drivers with a probationary license.In simple terms, unless you can use a mobile phone without touching it, you cannot use a mobile phone while you are driving.

The law creates three traps for the unwary driver.

According to Rule 300 of the Victorian Road Safety Rules, you are “using” a mobile phone when you:

  • hold it, even if the power is off, unless you are handing it to a passenger;
  • send a text message;
  • read a text message that you received;
  • read anything else displayed on the mobile phone, such as mobile phone numbers in your address book;
  • enter anything into the phone unless you can do so by voice in a “hands free” mode;
  • turn the phone on or off; or
  • operate any other function of the phone.

The broad definition of “using” the phone is the first trap

The second trap for drivers is the definition of “held.” A mobile phone cannot be held by the driver, but you are considered to be holding the phone if it is resting against any part of your body. The phone can be inside a pocket, but if it is leaning against your body, you are holding the phone.

If you place the phone on the seat next to you and it slides onto your leg when you go around a corner, you have broken the law. If you touch the phone to move it away from your leg, you have broken the law. Victoria’s mobile phone prohibition can therefore be a “no win” situation, even for drivers who have done nothing dangerous.

The third trap for drivers is the definition of “driving.” You are driving whenever the car is in motion, but for the purpose of this law, you are driving even when the car is not moving unless you are legally parked.

If you are waiting at a traffic light, you cannot touch your mobile phone no matter how safe it might be to do so. If you want to change GPS functions, turn off music, send a text, or touch the phone for any other reason, you need to park your vehicle legally. If you pull into an emergency stopping lane for reasons that do not constitute an emergency (including answering your phone), you are not legally parked.

  • What you can do
  • You are allowed to:
  • make or receive a “voice mode” call;
  • listen to music on your mobile phone; or
  • navigate using the phone’s GPS functions,

but only if:

the mobile phone is in a holder that commercially designed for that purpose and is mounted to some part of your car, provided you do not touch it while driving, or

you are using a “hands-free” wireless device, provided that you do touch the phone at any time while driving.

If you want to listen to music on the phone, you need to program the playlist and turn on the music function before you start driving. You cannot touch the phone to turn off the music until you are parked. If you want to use for phone for GPS navigation, you need to set the GPS function before you start driving.

A holder satisfies this exception only if it is manufactured by a company for the purpose of holding a mobile phone. If you make your own holder, it will not satisfy the “hands free” exception to the law.

This exception to the rule against using a mobile phone does not apply:

  • to learners or probationary drivers (they may not use a mobile phone under any circumstances);
  • to text messages or email functions (you can never use those functions while driving);
  • to any video display other than a GPS display.
  • This law does not apply:
  • to citizens band or two-way radios
  • to police or emergency vehicles

Penalties using a mobile phone while driving

As of November 2013, the penalty in Victoria for using a mobile phone illegally is $433 plus four demerit points.

If you cannot afford to accumulate any additional demerit points and you receive a ticket for illegal mobile phone use, you should contact a traffic lawyer.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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