It is now officially against the law for provisional licence holders in NSW to use their phones in any way while driving. If you get caught using a voice-activated GPS app while behind the wheel - even if your phone is secured to a hands-free cradle - you will be suspended from driving for three months. Here are the details.
New drivers are statistically eight times more likely to have a car accident than full licence holders. The state government is hoping to reduce this number via a blanket ban on phone use for all P platers. Here's the change as explained on the Transport NSW website:
From 1 December 2016, P2 licence holders will no longer be permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving or riding. P2 licence holders will have the same restrictions as learner and P1 licence holders.
...These laws encourage learner and P1 drivers and riders to concentrate on developing their vehicle control and hazard-perception skills. Mobile phone use can distract novice drivers and riders from the driving task.
In addition to the above, from 22 January 2016, learner and P1 drivers caught using a mobile phone will receive four demerit points - which exceeds their demerit point threshold. In other words, they will face a three-month licence suspension on the very first offence.
As we've said in the past, banning P platers from using GPS phones makes sense in theory - a phone is a dangerous diversion even when placed in a hands-free cradle.
On the other hand, GPS phones allow inexperienced drivers to devote their full attention to their vehicle and the traffic around them. Take it away, and they will need to focus more attention on road signs, street names and turnoffs - which can make them nervous and unpredictable drivers.
On the plus side, P platers can continue to use dedicated GPS units which are not banned under the new rules. We're sure Navman, TomTom and the like are quite pleased. Skint P platers, on the other hand, may need to revise their Christmas list.