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Using a phone or device while driving

Information about the offences for driving while using a mobile phone or device.

From 31 March 2023 the Road Safety Road Rules have extended mobile phone rules to cover modern technology. The new rules set out the types of devices and what is prohibited when driving or travelling. The rules that applied prior to 31 March 2023 are set out at the bottom of this page.

It is a breach of the Road Rules Victoria for a driver to use a mobile phone or device while they are driving, cycling or using an e-scooter or other non-motor vehicle unless that vehicle is parked. However, there some exemptions to this rule. The law depends on the category of the driver licence,what type of vehicle or conveyance is being used, and whether the device is affixed to the vehicle and what the device is being used for.

Fully licensed drivers

For all device types (portable, mounted, wearable and inbuilt) a driver must not, while driving:

  • enter text, numbers or symbols
  • scroll (such as on websites, social media, playlists)
  • play videos or games or take video calls
  • display text messages, social media, emails, or photos
  • rest a device on any part of the body, or pass a device to a passenger.

Portable devices

Fully licensed drivers must not:

  • Touch a portable device (regardless of whether the device is on or off);
  • Allow a portable device to be in their lap or on any part of their body or clothes (unless it is in a pocket, or in a pouch attached to their belt or other part of the body)
  • Otherwise operate the device (e.g. for navigation, to play audio material like music/podcasts/audio books or for a phone call) while the display is visible to the driver when driving, or in a way that is likely to distract another driver.
  • Look at the display of a portable device being operated by another person in the motor vehicle

Fully licensed drivers may

  • use voice controls to operate a portable device, and
  • use a mobile phone or other device to pay at a drive-through
  • permit ongoing activity on the device display

provided the device display is not visible to the driver and the operation of the device is unlikely to distract another driver.

Inbuilt/Mounted/Motor Bike Helmet Devices

Fully licensed drivers must not:

  • Enter information, text, numbers or symbols on the device (unless this is done by use of voice controls and is for these permitted functions).
  • Scroll on the device (websites, social media, contact lists, playlists, etc) – this includes using controls on a vehicle centre console, track ball or steering wheel to scroll on a display.
  • Use the device for any function that is not permitted. The following are examples of functions that are not permitted:
    • Reading or writing text messages, emails, message threads or websites.
    • Playing movies, TV, video games or other moving images.
    • Viewing social media, emails and photos.
    • Engaging in video calls or taking photos/videos.

Fully licensed drivers may:

  • operate the device, including touching the device (e.g. a brief tap), for the following specified functions:
    • Audio calls.
    • Playing or streaming audio material (music, podcasts, audio books etc).
    • Navigation.
    • Operating climate controls or driver assistance systems such as vehicle cameras or safety function/diagnostic systems.
    • Professional driving tasks.
    • Using a function on the device designed to monitor a driver’s behaviour or condition.
    • Adjusting the volume for any of the above.
  • However, the driver must not scroll or enter information, text, numbers or symbols on the device when doing the above.

Wearable devices

Fully licensed drivers must not:

  • Touch a wearable device (other than by incidental contact caused by wearing the device);
  • Look at the display of a wearable device being operated by another person in the motor vehicle.
  • Use the device for any function that is not permitted.
  • The following are examples of functions that are not permitted:
    • Reading or writing text messages, emails, message threads or websites.
    • Playing movies, TV, video games or other moving images.
    • Viewing social media and photos.
    • Video calls.
    • Navigation.
    • Operating climate controls or driver assistance systems such as vehicle cameras or safety function/diagnostic systems.
    • Professional driving tasks.
    • Using a function on the device designed to monitor a driver’s behaviour or condition.

Fully licensed drivers may:

  • Use voice controls to operate a wearable device.
  • Permit ongoing activity on the device display, for the following specified functions:
    • Audio calls.
    • Playing or streaming audio material (music, podcasts, audio books etc).
    • Adjusting the volume for the above.

Novice drivers (Learner and P-plate drivers)

Portable devices

Operation of portable devices by novice drivers is different from the rules for fully licensed drivers.

Novice drivers must not:

  • Touch a portable device (regardless of whether the device is on or off);
  • Look at the display of a portable device being operated by another person in the motor vehicle.
  • Allow a portable device to be in their lap or resting on any part of their body or clothes (unless it is in a pocket or a holding pouch attached to their clothes e.g. a belt).
  • Operate a portable device at all when driving - not even by using voice controls or permitting ongoing activity on the device display (e.g. alarms, or to keep playing audio material that had begun prior to driving).
  • Operate a portable device in any way when the motor vehicle they are driving is stationary but not parked.

There are general permissions that apply to novice drivers, which allow for the device’s usual home menu or locked screen to be displayed and for automatic notifications.

Inbuilt devices

Operation of inbuilt devices by novice drivers is different from the rules for fully licensed drivers.

Novice drivers must not:

  • Enter information, text, numbers or symbols on the device
  • Scroll on the device (websites, social media, contact lists, playlists, etc) – this includes using controls on a vehicle centre console, track ball or steering wheel to scroll on a display.
  • Operate the device using voice controls.
  • Use the device for the following non-permitted functions:
    • Phone calls (audio or video)
    • Reading or writing text messages, emails, message threads or websites.
    • Playing movies, TV, video games or other moving images.
    • Viewing social media, emails and photos.
    • Taking photos/videos.
    • Professional driving tasks.

Novice drivers may:

  • In addition to the general permissions, novice drivers are allowed to operate an inbuilt device, including touching the device (e.g. a brief tap), for the following specified functions:
    • Playing or streaming audio material (music, podcasts, audio books, adjust the radio station etc).
    • Navigation.
    • Operating climate controls or driver assistance systems such as vehicle cameras or safety function/diagnostic systems.
    • Using a function on the device designed to monitor a driver’s behaviour or condition.
    • Adjusting the volume for any of the above.

A novice driver must not scroll or enter information, text, numbers or symbols on the device, or use voice controls, when doing the above.

Mounted devices and motorbike helmet devices

Operation of mounted/motor bike helmet devices by novice drivers is different from the rules for fully licensed drivers.

Novice drivers must not:

  • Touch a mounted/motor bike helmet device (regardless of whether the device is on or off);
  • Operate the device using voice controls.
  • Use the device for the following non-permitted functions:
    • Phone calls (audio or video)
    • Reading or writing text messages, emails, message threads or websites.
    • Playing movies, TV, video games or other moving images.
    • Viewing social media, emails and photos.
    • Taking photos/videos.
    • Professional driving tasks.

Novice drivers may:

  • In addition to the general permissions, novice drivers are allowed to operate a mounted/motor bike helmet device for the following specified functions:
    • Playing or streaming audio material (music, podcasts, audio books etc).
    • Navigation.
  • Novice drivers must not touch the device or use voice controls, when doing the above.
  • This means they can only operate the mounted / motor bike helmet device by permitting ongoing activity on the device. It also means that the novice driver must park before touching the device or using voice controls to adjust the volume for these functions, change what audio is playing or change the address for navigation.

Wearable devices

Operation of wearable devices by novice drivers is different from the rules for fully licensed drivers.

Novice drivers must not:

  • Touch a wearable device (regardless of whether the device is on or off);
  • Operate the device using voice controls.
  • Look at the display of a wearable device being operated by another person in the motor vehicle.

Novice drivers may:

  • Play or stream audio material on a wearable device, provided that it is set up before commencing driving, or by pulling over and parking first.
  • Novice drivers may only operate the wearable device by permitting ongoing activity on the device. This means you the novice driver must park before touching the device or using voice controls to adjust the volume or change what audio is playing.
  • There are general permissions that apply to novice drivers, which allow for the device’s usual home menu or locked screen to be displayed and for automatic notifications.

Unauthorised drivers

Unauthorised drivers include drivers who are:

  • disqualified from driving; or
  • unlicensed (because they were never licensed, their authority to drive in Victoria has lapsed, they have not renewed an expiring licence, they have not obtained a licence after a disqualification period has ended or they have surrendered their licence).

Unauthorised drivers may not drive a motor vehicle. As such, they are not allowed to operate any device in a motor vehicle in any way.

Penalties

The maximum penalty is 10 penalty units. If the matter is dealt with by issue of an infringement notice, the penalty is 3 penalty units.

A driver will also lose 4 demerit points.

See r. 304—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) and Items 350 to 368 of Sch 7—Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Vic).

Resources

VicRoads - New Victorian Road Rules 2023

Rule 304 -Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic).

Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2019 (Vic)—Schedule 3 Demerit points(opens in a new window).

Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window)-Schedule 7—items 350-368—sets out the amount of the infringement penalty for these offences


Rules in force prior to March 31 2023

Phone calls

Fully licenced drivers may use their mobile phone to make and receive calls if their vehicle is parked or if their mobile phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while it is being used.

Different rules apply to learner or probationary drivers. See Learners and probationers.

Is the phone really hands free?

To be properly mounted means that the mounting has to be commercially designed and made specially for holding a mobile phone. The phone has to be secured in the mounting and the mounting has to be properly attached to the vehicle, in the way that the manufacturer intended.

See 300(2)—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window) (superseded).

What does 'using' mean?

'Use' of a mobile is really broadly defined. It includes any of the following actions by the driver:

  • holding the body of the phone in the hand (whether or not engaged in a phone call), except while handing the phone to a passenger
  • entering or placing, other than by the use of voice, anything into the phone, or sending or looking at anything that is in the phone
  • turning the phone on or off
  • operating any other function of the phone.

'Holding' includes being held, or resting on any part of the driver's body but does not include a phone that is held in a pocket or pouch worn by the driver.

A South Australian case Kyriakopoulos v Police (2006) 46 MVR 343 [2006] SASC 71 held that using a mobile phone by using an extension cord and an earpiece is a 'use' of a mobile phone.

See 300(4)—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window) (superseded) and 'Motor & Traffic law' under References.

Playing music

A fully licensed driver may use their mobile to play music or other audio sounds if the driver is not holding the phone and the phone does not need to press any buttons or to manipulate the phone at all.

If the phone is properly mounted there is no restriction on pressing buttons on the phone to play audio.

See s. 300—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window) (superseded).

Sending a text or email

Drivers are not allowed to send texts, or video messages, send emails or other similar communication while they are driving.

A driver is not considered to be 'using' their phone to receive a text message, video message or email if:

  • the communication is received automatically by the phone, and
  • on and after receipt, the communication itself (rather than any indication that the
    communication has been received) does not become automatically visible on the screen
    of the phone.

See s. 300(3)—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window) (superseded).

Playing games or taking photographs

It is illegal to use a hand held mobile phone to play games, to take photos or to use any other function on a phone.

Using the phone to navigate

A fully licensed driver may use their phone to help navigate if the phone is properly mounted and fixed to the vehicle.

Exceptions

Police, enforcement or emergency vehicles are exempt from this rule.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is 10 penalty units. If the matter is dealt with by issue of an infringement notice, the penalty is 3 penalty units.

A driver will also lose 4 demerit points.

See r. 300(1)—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window) (superseded) and Item 92 of Sch 7—Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Learner and probationer drivers and riders

A different rule applies to learner and probationary drivers and riders. This rule also applies to motorcyclists who are licensed after 30 September 2014 during the first 3 years after they get their licence.

These categories of drivers must not use a mobile phone for any reason unless the vehicle is parked.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is 10 penalty units. If the matter is dealt with by issue of an infringement notice, the penalty is 3 penalty units.

A driver will also lose 4 demerit points.

See r. 300(1A)—Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic)(opens in a new window) (superseded) and Item 93 of Sch 7—Road Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

For detailed information about the case law relating to use of a mobile phone,

See [54,675.1] Use of hand held phone in Motor & traffic law—Victoria(opens in a new window).

Updated