As Traffic Law specialists we are often asked as to when and how you can use your mobile phone while driving. These enquiries normally arise after the person has been pulled over by the police and fined which also resulted in a loss of three demerit points. To avoid losing demerit points which could result in a licence suspension, it is important to have a clear understanding of the laws surrounding mobile phone use.
Can I use my mobile phone while driving?
You can only use your mobile phone while driving if it is secured in a holder fixed to the vehicle or can be controlled without physically touching your phone and the phone is not resting on any part of your body.
Can I use any function on my phone as long it is secured to the vehicle?
No. You can only use your mobile phone while driving if you are making or receiving calls, playing music or using the GPS function. To use the GPS function it must be secured in a holder fixed to your car. You can’t have it on the seat next to you in which you have to glance down to see the screen. You can’t text, make video calls or email while driving under any circumstances. You also can’t pick up your phone to check the time, to move it to a different location in the car or to check the caller ID on a missed call or text.
What is considered driving?
The Road Safety Rules 2009 refer to the vehicle being moving or stationary, but not parked. So if you are stopped at traffic lights you still must comply with the above requirements if you are going to use your mobile phone.
Do these laws relate to all drivers?
No. Learners and P1 drivers are prohibited from using their mobile phone at all while driving.
Why are the laws so strict?
Using a mobile phone while driving distracts you in many ways including: physical distraction by handling the phone; visual distraction because your eyes are off the road and on your phone; and cognitive distraction as it can result in a lapse of concentration and judgement. These effects can result in wandering out of your lane, slower reaction time, slower and less controlled braking and not being alert to your surroundings. All of which, obviously, can result in a traffic accident!