The New South Wales government has announced increased penalties for using a mobile phone while driving. The new penalties will commence over the Christmas holiday period, beginning on December 24.
An offence is committed if the driver of a vehicle handles a mobile phone while driving, if they rest the phone on their leg, hold it to their ear with their shoulder, or touch it with any part of their body while it is in use.
The only exceptions are where the car is safely parked in an authorised space with the engine turned off, where the driver is passing the phone to a passenger, or if the driver is a police officer or emergency services worker on duty.
A mobile phone may be used with a mounted hands-free set as long as it does not obstruct the driver’s view. Similarly, the GPS function can be used as long as the phone is secured in a cradle mount and does not obstruct the view. A phone may also be used with a blue-tooth or remote wireless device, as long as the phone is not touched while driving.
Currently, the penalty for using a phone while driving is a fine of $319 and three demerit points. From December 24 to January 3, while the fine will remain the same, you will lose six points. In the new year, the number of demerit points will increase to four, or eight points during holiday periods.
In a media release, Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Troy Grant said:
‘Holding your mobile phone to call or text while driving is extremely dangerous and just plain reckless for you, your passengers and everyone else on the road … While driving at 60 kilometres per hour, if you glance at your phone for two seconds, you travel around 33 metres blind.’
Last year in New South Wales, approximately 35,000 fines were issued for using a mobile phone while driving.