The state of Victoria is cracking down on distracted drivers, introducing new rules from March 31 2023 around the use of devices as it rolls out mobile phones and seat belt cameras.
Illegal use of a cell phone or other device carries a $555 fine and four demerit points. If the matter is tried in court, the fine can be up to $1849.
Learners and probationary drivers will lose their permit or license if they accumulate more than four demerit points in a year; the license holder’s full limit is 11 demerit points over a three-year period.
You can see a full breakdown of the rules on the VicRoads website.
Open the license holder
Regardless of whether your mobile phone or tablet is securely mounted in the cradle, you cannot enter text, numbers or symbols, scroll or take video calls, nor can you view videos, games, photos, emails or social media .
You may also not place the device on any part of the body or hand the device to a passenger.
However, you can use it to manage audio calls, stream music, adjust volume or use navigation or any other function designed to help you operate the vehicle.
These rules also apply to infotainment systems, wearable devices such as smart watches and motorcycle helmet devices.
Undocked phones, tablets, laptops, media players or game consoles cannot be used by drivers, period. This includes touching it or putting it on your lap, and you also can’t see the passenger’s device and they can’t hand their device to you either.
The rules for wearable devices like smartwatches are slightly different. You can manage audio calls, play or stream audio and adjust the volume level, but that’s about it.
Students, P1 and P2 drivers
Mind you, the law as a whole is stricter for students, P1 and P2 drivers. Effectively, these drivers cannot do anything that a full license holder is allowed to do, with only narrow exceptions.
Learner, P1 and P2 drivers can only use devices installed for navigation and audio streaming if they are set up before the journey starts. They cannot touch the device while moving even to skip songs or change destinations.
The driver can also “briefly” touch the infotainment system to adjust navigation settings, climate control and audio functions. No scrolling or voice control allowed.
For wearable devices, this driver cannot touch them or use voice control. Motorcycle helmet devices can also only be used for navigation and audio streaming.
If you drive a vehicle for your job, for example a truck and taxi driver or ride share operator, you are also allowed to do the following with the device:
- Accept or reject the job
- Collect information
- Maintain safety and security
- Facilitate the movement of passengers
This driver cannot, however, scroll on the device or enter information or text on the move.
Riders of electric scooters, bicycles etc
The Victorian government said all the new rules apply to riders and operators of bicycles, electric scooters, “recreational vehicles” such as skateboards and rollerblades, and electric personal transporters.
“Too many drivers continue to put their lives at risk using mobile phones behind the wheel. We are preventing this type of risky behavior on our roads with these new road rules, as well as phone tracking and seatbelt technology,” Victoria police minister Anthony Carbines said.
“We need every driver to make the right decision when they are behind the wheel. When they don’t, road safety cameras and Victoria Police are there to hold them accountable.”
The Victorian government has also cited research that distractions account for at least 11 per cent of deaths.
Victoria is not alone in launching cell phones and seat belt tracking cameras. Queensland has also rolled out many of these cameras, and recorded over 100,000 offenses between 1 November 2021 and 25 May 2022.