Australian Laws For Using Your Mobile Phone While Driving

Australian Laws For Using Your Mobile Phone While Driving

NSW has introduced new laws, in effect from today, which make it illegal to handle your phone at all while driving. What rules apply in the rest of the country? We’ve rounded up the current laws for every state and territory.

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Details differ slightly surrounding GPS navigation and what learner drivers can do, but the most important thing to note is this: making a call using a hand-held phone while driving is illegal right across the country. That’s because it’s risky and stupid behaviour. Note that it doesn’t matter if your car is temporarily stopped at lights: it’s still illegal to make a call with a phone in your hands. All states ban texting and emailing while driving, whether your phone is mounted or not.

If you want to use your phone as a GPS, then it should be mounted in a stand designed for the purpose. The majority of states (everywhere except Queensland and WA) specify that the mount must be commercially manufactured; you can potentially be fined if you make your own.

Common sense suggests that you should minimise use of your phone while driving, and should stick to hands-free mode and a Bluetooth headset if you want to make calls. But precisely what you can and can’t do varies a little state by state. Here’s the law as it stands (with links to the relevant government web sites).


Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a commercially-manufactured cradle if you want to use GPS functions, place a call or play music. You can only touch a phone to hand it to another passenger. Learners and P1 drivers can’t operate phones at all. Luke over at Gizmodo has a much more detailed analysis of the new laws for NSW.


Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a commercially-manufactured cradle if you want to place a call or play music. If you want to use the phone as a GPS, it must be fixed in a commercially-manufactured cradle. Learners and P1 drivers can’t operate phones at all.


Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a cradle if you want to place a call, use a GPS or play music. Learners and P1 drivers can’t operate phones at all, and supervising drivers can’t use phones in loudspeaker mode.

Western Australia

Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a cradle if you want to place a call or play music. If you want to use the phone as a GPS, it must be fixed in a cradle.

South Australia

Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a commercially-manufactured cradle if you want to place a call, use a GPS or play music. Learners and P1 drivers can’t operate phones at all.


Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a commercially-manufactured cradle if you want to place a call. If you want to use the phone as a GPS, it must be fixed in a cradle.


Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a commercially-manufactured cradle if you want to place a call, use a GPS or play music.

Northern Territory

Phones must either be operated entirely hands-free or placed in a cradle if you want to place a call, use a GPS or play music. Learners and P1 drivers can’t operate phones at all.


  • The new rules state if the phone is in a commercially designed mount, you can then touch the device to make phone calls, gps or play music. seems very fair, and clears up the confusion from the past where just touching a phone could get you fined. The government has finally acknowledged that the smart phone has more then one use. this does cause problem for those who use a DIY holder such as the bulldog clip seen on LH in the past. I think there has been a fair amount of confusion from news agencies reporting incorrectly that you will not be able to touch the devices at all with the new laws. this is incorrect.

    • Surely bulldog clips are “commercially manufactured”. If the government can acknowledge that phones have more than one use, then so do other objects. If not then perhaps politicians are only good for one thing too.

      • I sure as hell didn’t manufacture the strip of Velcro® holding my iPhone to the dash myself.
        3M® manufactures that. Ohh, I’m sorry by “commercially manufactured” did you mean made by one of the companies who wrote the legislation??

  • Good post, but still unsure of the finer rules.

    If the phone is in the cradle are you allowed to operate it with your hands? Plus the NSW rule of allowing to pass it to a passenger does this apply in any other states, sounds like it is a law that could easily be abused!

  • so learners/P plate drivers can’t operate phones @ all.. Does this include the music function? if so, i guess you’ll be wanting to swap to an ipod; so you fall outside these laws when it comes to listening to music & operating a phone? or have i got it wrong?

  • Also understand that the police are “above the law” in this case and are allowed to do whatever they like with their phones, whether it be for police business or personal use, any time they please.

    Above the law.

    • WORNG LIGHT487

      Police are only allowed to use a phone in the line of duty. You know, their job. Where even thought it might be dangerous they will still risk their lives to save yours. Despite you having an obvious hatred towards them!!

      The NSW law states any device. So even a GPS needs to be docked. I can’t recall if it mentioned iPods. But to put it in easy to understand terms

      Docked: can use the device as a GPS, Music Player and for calls. You are allowed to touch the device. You can NOT send or read texts, emails etc.

      Undocked: you can NOT use the device as a GPS or a phone. You CAN pass it to a passenger. I would assume you can use it undocked to play music, but you can not touch it to change tracks.

      Cars with controls on their steering wheels allows the device to be undocked.

      The laws are quite simple really. They don’t want you touching your device unless its docked. And only use it if its either docked or COMPLETELY hands free (in the case of modern cars with inbuilt controls in the steering wheel).

      • Actually I work with police every day of my working life.. My point is on principle of “above the law” and noone should be exempt from laws. Yes, in doing their job.. that’s fine.. that’s what the exemption is for. The point is, who is going to prove that they were not just on the phone with their BFF?

        • As i highlighted earlier on Giz,,, Who would then monitor the people whose job is to monitor the police to ensure they are not corrupt?

          We both agree on them being able to have exemptions when its in the line of duty. It seems you believe/think/witness them doing so when its not in the line of duty.

          I have not seen it happen TBH. But i also don’t work with them daily. I do know several police officers who were either mates at school or mates of mates. I can attest for them not doing so. I don’t doubt some cops would/might use the exemptions in times when its not permitted. But i doubt its a wide spread problem, and believe more motorists flaunt the laws and dont get caught vs police officers (in this case mobile phone laws). You get dodgy people in all walks of life. I have seen both dodgy and excellent Teachers, Lawyers, Doctors, Tradesmen, Chefs, Sales people, Mechanics etc etc. Some of them just in normal day to day life, some i have worked with/for (have had a varying array of jobs).

          • Nitrobuggies is one of those really irritating people in life, defending and excusing corruption and hypocrisy. Some Teachers, Lawyers, Doctors etc might be dodgy but there are no laws excluding them from adherence to the law, whereas the law BY DESIGN, by definition, excludes the police from adherence to the law. The police can be chatting away to their mother on their hand held mobile phone whilst speeding in a police motor vehicle because they are late to lunch and they have NOT broken the law in their case. Whether they would do this or not is completely irrelevant!

    • Ugh. It’s not just about paying a fine mate…

      It’s about trying to reduce the risk of you killing someone while you’re answering an ‘important’ phone call or text message…

      If you were the only idiot driving this way on a deserted highway then by all means, go for your life – when you’re sharing the road with cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers – then it’s time to grow a brain and think about the implications of laws designed for safety.

      Admittedly yes, on the surface it may seem restrictive, but the data seems to indicate that we can’t talk/text and pay attention to driving simultaneously (it only takes a few seconds of inattention and all it takes is that 1 time in 10 that you screw up). Nothing is so urgent that we need to be risking our lives or the lives of others – and after all, what did we ever do without mobile phones years and years ago?

      • But the law exists because some people, but not all, can’t drive and use the phone at the same time. Some are perfectly capable of doing it. Those that can’t, will know they can’t, and if they cause an accident whilst on the phone should be thrown in jail (and if they kill someone – 30 years). But don’t punish those that are capable of doing both. I don’t answer it, as I can’t afford to lose my license (as I can’t work without one), but take a look around while driving, and see the huge number of people using phones while driving. Also look at what other things people do while driving – reading a book/magazine, smoking, drinking/eating, rubbing cream into their skin, etc.

        How is reading an text message any different to reading a book? A text message is only 160 characters max. A book is 10000s.

        Maybe the best solution is, to increase driving capability in order to get a license. And not give those people a license in the first place.

        You say nothing is so urgent – why not tell the general public that? We’re strongly advised to not answer the phone whilst driving. But if we don’t, clients go all mental, and bitch and moan to managers how we should answer the phone 100% of the time – and they “Don’t care. Still answer it.” when told we’re driving (and sometimes on the way to their house) – (A client who is a police officer even said that once)

        Look at the US – they’re the blood alcohol limit is 0.08 – as research shows that at 0.05 some people, but not all, aren’t in a state to be able to drive. But at 0.08, no one is in a state to drive. Australia punishes those people in the 0.05-0.08 range that can drive without problems.

        And a big shame on Today Tonight for showing that footage of the school bus driver using his phone while driving.

        • So we should just let risky behaviour continue until something bad happens, and then just say “you should have known your limits” ? “Too bad you didn’t think it was dangerous or risky because we never told you or enforced it” ?
          By allowing greater freedom for stupid behaviour, you end up getting to a 1-strike rule. They can do whatever they want until something bad finally happens and then they’re off the jail if they’re not dead.

          If you’re getting a call whilst you’re driving that you have to answer, pull over onto the side of the road and park. Even if you miss the call, you should be able to call right back.
          I’ve had bosses who were the “answer it no matter what” type too, but calling them back ASAP when you missed the call does much to alleviate their stress.

          Just because people are driving stupidly and not getting hit with consequences (that you can see) doesn’t mean they’re a perfectly capable driver whilst doing said stupid thing, so you can’t say for certain that they are not putting themselves or others at risk doing what they do.

  • I have also heard that pulling over and taking a call with the engine running is still considered driving and hence illegal unless in a cradle or fully hands free. If you want to use a phone hand held then I think you will need to have the vehicle stopped and the key out of the ignition.

    • Depends on the state.

      In NSW if the car is PARKED and engine running it is fine to hold the phone and make calls etc. but the car needs to be parked.

      • Had an instance in NSW just recently when parked on the side of the road being cautioned by the Police to turn the car off before touching the phone. The thing is we really do not (as drivers) know the details of these laws that are apparently being ‘clarified’. I was under the impression I can select tracks from an mp3/media player while at the lights but in no way could be distracted by a video clip playing on the same mp3/media player whether it was in a cradle or not – But a post below disputes this. So many other questions about the use of UHF radios, Is my iphone 3 with no sim in it a media player or a phone etc.

  • In Victoria Australia (‘The Nanny State’) they have been policing this for a while (undercover police on street corners radioing to more police ahead).
    What infuriates me, is most (other) discussions do NOT make a clear distinction between Texting, and talking on a phone. Texting is 20 times more dangerous, and I don’t mind if they ban you from driving for life for that. Conversely talking on the phone is not as dangerous as allowing a mother (or dad) drive a car with young children in it. Are they going to ban that ?.
    Flippin Oprah started this campaign to ban drivers from talking on their phones. Meanwhile she is chatting away on hers, whilst been driven by her chauffeur.
    Ban texting drivers for life, as they are idiots.
    But, I believe we should be allowed to talk on our phones.
    And haven’t the police got more important things to do ?
    Like massive operations to detect train travelers with some pot in their pockets.
    Or catch participants at rave parties with some ecstasy in their pockets.

  • If you use your phone and drive you’re not giving driving your full attention. Pull your head out of your ass. Your vehicle can kill. Even if there is an accident, and its not your fault and you were on the phone and distracted and didn’t do as much as you could have to minimise the impact, you are culpable. How will you feel if you put someone in hospital or kill them? The fine is the least of your worries. Think of how it will affect your family and the family of the victim. You selfish assholes.

  • TRAFFIC RULES for CARS have been made a LEGAL minefield

    We need simple rules that everyone can understand.
    e.g. What is LEGALLY PARKED as far as use of a MOBILE.

    Does it mean as stated on radio today, that you have to take the key out and get out of your vehicle. How does this go if it is unsafe to get out of the car and you need to URGENTLY call for help. Radio 2GB today stated that you had to remove the key and get out of vehicle!

    I am talking about a case of someone after you waiting for you to get out.
    A storm condition where help is needed and you would have safety issues outside.
    Very hot condition where unsafe to be outside the car and you need the cars air-conditioning going to keep you cool and safe.
    A car stopped with no air-Cond inside temperature can rise very quickly in the time of a telephone call . A serious health risk.

  • So what if I’m holding a phone without a sim card in. Would that be allowed? Yes. But holding a phone with a sim card in. No. What’s the difference? So it’s not a safety issue. It’s a money making issue. Or holding a hamburger with meat and lettuce dropping out? And eating it and poking the meat back in so that it doesn’t fall on my lap….allowed? Yes. Distraction? Yes. Or getting a lighter to light a cigarette in the car and dropping the ash in the ash tray. Taking your eyes off the road? Yes. Distraction? Yes. Allowed? Yes. So what’s the go. And seriously, waiting as car number 10 in a line of about 30 cars, at a traffic light, which takes 2 mins to change because of a train going past as well… can texting someone THEN, be dangerous???? I’m totally stationery, and NOTHING is happening or moving within 20m of the vehicle. Obviously it’s not safe to text whilst moving. But waiting stationery,….I can’t see it’s unsafe. It’s been taken to the ridiculous.

  • Yesterday i was trying to be smart… but i was stupid! I was driving in light suburban traffic, phone on lap, sound ‘On’, and an sms arrived to a ‘beep’! Stupid me looked down, AFTER checking no immediate danger… and of course seeing a notification on my Message app, i opened it to satisfy my curiosity. I glanced up to see the car that WAS a few car lengths ahead, racing towards me (it had braked cos car in front did… why i do not know.). I hit the brakes hard, stopped in time, but man… A WAKE UP CALL!
    DON’T think it can’t happen to you: checking who a text or call is from… ANY distraction can be fatal!!!

  • Stopped for a random breath test in the middle of the day, I am a hater of phone users at any time while driving and have a Bluetooth and a factory mount. I normally run my GPS on my phone for speed alerts etc, while waiting for my wife was playing solitaire, after she got in the car I did switch it back to my GPS, then stopped for a breath test which was negative, the officer then saw the screen with the game showing and asked if I was playing it while driving, I told him I used it while waiting for my wife and had not turned it back, he then went into a song and dance about it being a distraction and that he could fine me $450 to have it there, frankly a GPS is more distracting, he went on so much I did raise my voice and again told him I would not and was not touching it, he then told me to submit to another breath test I think just to show his authority, ( which other than for a malfunction is illegal) which I complied with and not having had a drink since the first one it was negative. I am an ex police officer of 30 years not that I want any leniency because of that, but the way this guy went on was a laugh, totally unprofessional, and edging on bully, if you are going to give a ticket, GIVE IT, don’t boast that you can, AND for a phone offence it has to be SEEN by the officer, when I questioned him if he saw me touch it other than to switch it back to GPS whilst he was rambling on, he did not answer me and asked me to move on, well at least one thing came of it all the people I stopped being tested over the 5 minutes of verbal garbage, sorry current police are just plain officious.

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