Illegal to talk on phone whilst driving

Halleluja! We’ve been in Australia for five months and today I saw my first car being stopped by the police because the driver was talking on their mobile phone. The culprit was female and there were child seats in the car. Possibly, like me, returning from the school run.

Before living in Sydney I didn’t use a car much so I don’t have anything to compare with driving habits here. But recently it’s begun to niggle that so many people talk on their phones whilst driving; and if they’re not talking they’re looking down into their laps or balancing their phone on the steering wheel, probably texting.

Maybe it’s the time of day that I’m on the road, but it’s usually women I see talking on their phones whilst driving. Don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into a rant about co-mum’s driving habits. The situation simply left me bemused…

I know Australia is far from the overzealous rules and regulations of the European Union but surely this kind of dangerous behaviour isn’t tolerated? I set out to investigate.

What are the rules and penalties?

The rules, available on the RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) website, are clear: “It is illegal to drive or ride a vehicle while using a hand-held mobile phone. The penalty is a significant fine and three demerit points. This means that talking, sending or receiving text messages, playing games or taking photos are illegal when using a hand-held phone. It is also illegal to perform these activities when your vehicle is stopped but not parked, for example when you are waiting at traffic lights.”

Interestingly, the penalty increases to four demerit points and a larger fine if you’re in a school zone. The fine, depending on your driving status, ranges from $250 to $340. If you get 12 points on your license, you’ll lose it for three months. In other words, get caught in a school zone three times and you’re walking.

If you’re curious, the car I saw being pulled over wasn’t in a school zone but was moments away from several I know of in the area.

How do Australian penalties compare with other countries?

The penalties in Australia are similar to those in the UK, where using a mobile phone whilst driving will get you three penality points and a small fine. In France, you’ll lose 2 of your 12 points if you get caught talking on your phone.

Australia is clear in its legislation and strict in its penalties but I still see drivers on their phones everywhere.

For me, driving is one of the rare times I get to just sit, without one of the children climbing on me or demanding my attention. I’m certainly not going to ruin this relatively quiet time by talking on the phone.

I know mums take multi-tasking to new levels but if you’re prone to chat on your phone whilst driving, please get a handsfree kit…it’ll be safer for everyone.

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