As motorists, we’re aware of the right and wrong road rules to abide by while driving. But for some drivers, there are laws that come as a surprise.
When Sydney driver Sheree Panetta turned to Facebook to tell her friends about a road rule she was penalised for, her post quickly went viral.
“Tell your passengers to stay off their phones while you are driving, I got fined because my passenger was on FaceTime. Honestly didn’t know that was a thing,” she wrote on Facebook.
Sheree received a $337 fine from NSW Police and lost three demerit points because her passenger was on a FaceTime call. The offence, which was listed as ‘Drive vehicle with TV/VDU image likely to distract’ in Sheree’s fine, is an offence that’s covered in NSW by Road Rule 299 (1)(a).
The road rule states: A driver must not drive a vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen (a) is visible to the driver from the normal driving position, or (b) is likely to distract another driver.
Although this road rule has left some motorists confused, these sanctions are pretty common on roads across the nation. To help you understand the laws in your state, we’ve listed the various penalties below.
NSW: If a passenger is using a phone which has a display that’s visible to the driver, the penalty is $344 and three demerit points, or $457 and four demerit points if the offence happens in a school zone.
ACT: Passengers are legally permitted to use their phones while another person is driving. However, there are penalties for driving with a distracting TV or video display unit under ACT road rules which could include a passenger’s phone. The fine for this is $245.
Victoria: There are no specific laws banning passengers from using their mobile phones in cars. However, under road rule 272 a passenger must not interfere with a driver’s control of the vehicle or obstruct the driver’s view. If this rule is broken, drivers can face fines of up to approximately $495. There are also laws preventing the use of any visual display unit that has any part of the image on the screen visible to the driver from the normal driving position. The maximum penalty for this is approximately $1652.
Queensland: It’s illegal to drive with a television or visual display unit in the vehicle if the screen is visible to the driver from the driving position. The penalty for these offences is an on-the-spot fine of $177 or a maximum court imposed fine of $2669.
Northern Territory: Drivers caught looking at their passenger’s phone screen can be fined anywhere between $500 to $2669.
South Australia: South Australia’s laws are the same as NSW, with a fine of $109 plus an additional $60 victims of crime levy, which brings it to a total of $169. Surprisingly, no demerit points are attached to this offence.
Western Australia: WA law states: A driver shall not drive a motor vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen (a) is visible to the driver from the normal driving position; or (b) is likely to distract another driver. If this law is broken it will cost drivers $300 and three demerit points.
Tasmania: TAS law around using mobile phones and visual display units are much the same as other states. Drivers are banned from using mobile phones for calls or driver’s aids unless the phone is either affixed to the car, or the use of the phone does not require the driver, at any time while using it, to press anything on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone.
The exception to the road rule is if the passenger is using the mobile phone as an aid for the driver for directions, it’s secured to the vehicle by a fixture, and the driver isn’t touching the phone.
To ensure you don’t break the law, perhaps the next time your passenger is using their mobile phone while you’re driving, you might want to tell them to put it away.