When Can I Use My Phone in the Car? Understanding Mobile Phone Detection Cameras

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Since March 2020, you’ll face heavy fines for using your phone while driving. This is the date on which the New South Wales Government introduced the Mobile Phone Detection Camera Program as part of their overall strategy to eliminate road deaths or serious injury by 2056.

By using cameras detecting phone use, they’re able to identify those drivers who contravene the law. And the penalties are severe. In fact, when caught for the illegal use of a phone while driving, you’ll receive five demerit points and a fine of $352. If you’re caught using your phone illegally in a school zone, this fine goes up to $469 and during a double demerit period, you’ll receive 10 demerit points.

In some cases, these demerit points can push you over your demerit point threshold with the effect that you’ll lose your license. Ultimately, this means that it’s crucial that you understand what the rules relating to phone use while driving are and, by implication, that you know when you can use your phone in your car and when you can’t.

In this post, we’ll take a look at these rules in more detail.

How Do Mobile Phone Detection Cameras Work?

Like their speed camera counterparts, mobile phone detection cameras are there to identify those drivers that contravene the law when driving. They’re fairly inconspicuous and available in both mobile and fixed variants. This means they can be used anywhere to identify the illegal use of a phone when driving.

They actually work by using many cameras and an infra-red flash which enables them to capture images of passing motor vehicles irrespective of the traffic and weather conditions.

Once they’ve captured these images, an artificial intelligence algorithm reviews them and filters out all the images of drivers who did not contravene the law. The system then deletes these images within an hour of detection.

Trained personnel then confirm contraventions by verifying the images of motorists using their phones while driving. These motorists then face heavy fines for using a phone while driving.

When Can You Use Your Phone in Your Car?

So, when can you use your phone in your car? There are actually a few instances when the rules allow this. These instances are when you:

  • Make or receive calls, but only if your phone is secured in a cradle fixed to your vehicles or if you’re able to make and receive calls without touching the phone by, for instance, using Bluetooth functionality.
  • Listen to music or use other audio functions of your phone, but only if your phone is secured in a cradle fixed to your vehicles or if you’re able to use these functions without touching the phone by, for instance, using Bluetooth functionality.
  • Use your phone as a driving aid like, for instance, for navigation, as a dispatch system, or when using the Speed Adviser app. In this case, the phone should be secured in a cradle fixed to your vehicle.
  • Use the wallet functions of your phone to, for example, make transactions, show vouchers or coupons, or gain access to a premises, but only if your vehicle is stationary and parked off the road.
  • Access your Digital Driver’s Licence, but only if a police officer asks you to do so.

What’s Not Allowed?

Any contravention of the above rules will constitute the illegal use of a phone while driving. This means, apart from the above instances, you won’t be able to use your phone legally while driving. Also, you’re not allowed to hold your phone, and you won’t be able to use functions like video calling, texting, social media, web browsing, or photography.

It’s important to note that the above rules only apply to drivers with unrestricted licences. So, if you’re the holder of a restricted learner, P1, or P2 licence, you’re not allowed to use your phone in any way when driving.

The Bottom Line

Considering that you face heavy fines for using a phone while driving and that, in some cases, it could lead to you losing your licence, it’s vital that you understand when you’re allowed to use your phone when not. In this, you’ll avoid the severe penalties for the illegal use of a phone when driving. Hopefully, this post helped illustrate these rules in more detail.

If you want to know more about these rules or if you feel that you’ve been incorrectly fined for illegal mobile phone use after detection on a mobile phone detection camera, you may need a traffic lawyer.

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