Driving whilst using mobile phones: Penalties increased to $1000 and 4 points from tomorrow!

The invention of mobile phones has greatly impacted our lives and they are becoming part of our lives. With that said, the temptation of keeping our hands off our mobile phones can both be challenging and overwhelming.

From 1 February 2020, the Queensland Government is increasing the penalties about using your mobile phone while driving on the road.

Whether you are texting, answering a call, using navigation or changing your playlist, you may receive a penalty of $1,000 and 4 demerit points against your traffic history. Learners and P-Platers could lose their licence for just 1 offence.

If you are not cautious and get caught a second time within 12 months, it will be fined another $1000 and 8 demerit points. As such, you may lose your driver licence altogether.

Bicycle riders will also be fined $1,000, but no demerit points will be issued.

When we say “use’’, what does that mean?

“Use” is defined broadly and includes the following acts:-

  1. Holding your phone to, or near, the ear, whether or not engaged in a phone call;
  2. Writing, sending or reading a text message on the phone;
  3. Turing the phone on or off;
  4. Operating any other function of the phone.

All these actions are commonly seen in our daily lives, but they are strictly prohibited while we are driving on the road. Exceptions apply to emergency vehicle or police vehicle drivers only.

Stopping in front of traffic lights or a congested road does not grant you any excuse from being penalised! You can only use a mobile phone held in your hand if you are legally parked. Parked means stopped with the intention of staying at that place.

As using mobile phones while driving is seen as illegal, you really shouldn’t be touching your phone while driving, otherwise, you bear the risk of being penalised.

“What about using loudspeaker?”

There are different restrictions imposed on different licence holders.

1. Learner and P1 provisional driver under 25

If you are under 25 years old and is currently holding a Learner or P1 licence, you are strictly prohibited from utilising your mobile phone on loudspeaker function, through wireless headsets or hands-free.

2. Passengers of Learner and P1 provisional driver

All passengers of a Learner or P1 provisional driver are banned from using a mobile phone’s loudspeaker function.

3. P2 provisional ad Open license driver

Exception applies to P2 provisional driver and Open Licence driver.

Holding an open licence doesn’t mean you can use your phone while driving. It merely allows you to talk on the phone via a hands-free kit or bluetooth function.

If your phone is fixed to a cradle in the motor vehicle you are operating, you are permitted to use your phone on loudspeaker as long as you are not holding your phone or distracted by it while driving.

If you would like to use your phone for GPS navigation, you need to ensure that you set up everything before you start driving on the road.

“What about paying with the phone in a drive through?

Although most people now add their bank cards to mobile wallet including Apple Pay and Google Pay, you are not allowed to tap and pay in a drive through.

If you intend to pay with your mobile phone, you may switch off the engine and then pay with your mobile. In doing so, you are not considered driving. Alternatively, you may ask a passenger (if any) to “tap and go” pay in a way that does not distract you.

“What about tapping the screen of the phone placed on a hands-free holder to change music?”

Drivers are not recommended to tap the screen of phones placed on hands-free holder. If a driver is caught for doing so, he/she might be charged with the offence of careless driving for driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. The maximum penalty for careless driving is $5,338, or 6 months imprisonment.

“Can a driver be fined if a passenger is using their phone in a manner distracting the driver?”

Depending on the circumstances, a driver can be fined if a passenger is using their phone in a manner distracting the driver.

Generally, a passenger in or on a vehicle must not interfere with the driver’s control of the vehicle or obstruct the driver’s view of the road or traffic. Using a mobile phone in a manner distracting the driver will affect the driver’s proper control of their vehicle. A passenger can be fined up to $2,669.

If a passenger holds a mobile phone with visual display while the vehicle is moving, and the image on the screen is visible to the driver from the normal driving position or is likely to distract another driver, the driver must not drive. Otherwise, the driver can be fined up to $2,669. Exception applies if the phone is used as navigational aids.

“What happens if I was caught using my phone while driving?”

From 1 February 2020, the penalties for illegally using a mobile phone while driving will be increased from a $400 fine and 3 demerit points to a $1,000 fine and 4 demerit points.

If you get caught a second time within 12 months, you will be recorded double demerit points against your traffic history. That will be $1,000 fine and 8 demerit points, and your licence may be suspended or cancelled.

Bicycle riders will be fined $1,000, but no demerit points will be issued.

“I disagree with the penalties. Can I appeal?”

Absolutely!

You are required to fill the back page of the fine and post it to the address stated within 28 days.

Before taking any further action, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to achieve your best result.

If you are facing any issues about your fine, please contact Ascent Lawyers. We are always here to assist you.

Kind Reminder

  1. Turn off your phone before you start driving, this will prevent you from being tempted to use your phone while driving.
  2. If you really need to use your mobile phone during your trip, ensure that you install a hands-free kit or using Bluetooth function. This only applies to open or P2 Provisional Licence holders.
  3. If you are intending to stay inside your car, you are allowed to use your phone after the car is completely stopped in a legal parking area.

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