Pull Over Before You Read This Article – New Road Rules Introduced 31 March 2023
The article Pull Over Before You Read This Article – New Road Rules Introduced 31 March 2023 is written by Annamiek Van Loon, Senior Associate, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.
Annamiek is currently based at our Melbourne office. She is experienced in handling criminal cases at the Magistrates' Courts especially where it involves contested charges or bail applications as well as pleas of guilty.
Before becoming a part of Doogue + George, Annamiek was an associate to a County Court Judge in Victoria. She has also worked for another criminal law firm for nine years and has interned for both Victoria Legal Aid and the Criminal Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.
The law (both legislation made by Parliament and common law based on decisions of the courts) is constantly trying to keep up with our ever changing society. Aren’t we all?! The area of technology is a particularly interesting and complex one, and often the legal issues that arise from new and developing technology take a while to be addressed by the law.
On 31 March 2023, several changes were introduced to the Victorian road rules. These new rules specifically address the increase of technology used in vehicles and on motorbikes. The rules will differ for drivers with a full licence and those on their Learners or Probationary licences. Previously, the road rules regarding use of devices whilst driving covered mobile phones and visual displays only. These new rules cover:
- Portable devices (unmounted mobile phones, tablets);
- Wearable devices (smartwatches, wearable heads-up display);
- Inbuilt devices (Information, navigation, and entertainment systems, heads-up display that is an inbuilt part of the vehicle);
- Mounted devices (Heads-up display, tablet, mobile phone, media player etc. if securely mounted in or on a vehicle); and
- Motor bike helmet devices.1
This article covers the new rules for full licence holders only. It doesn’t cover all changes. So if you want to know more you can find details on the VicRoads website.
Information for L- and P-platers can be found here: https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/new-vic-road-rules-2023/learner-and-probationary-drivers
In short, drivers can TOUCH particular devices if properly mounted. This doesn’t mean type a short message, nor does it mean scroll down quickly to read a message. It means a single tap and nothing more. This is elaborated below.
For the unmounted / portable device types listed above, you 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.
For portable devices such as unmounted or loose mobile phones, tablets, laptops, media players and game-consols, you must not while driving:
- Touch a portable device, even if it is turned off
- Allow a portable device to be in your lap or on any part of your body or clothes (unless it is in a pocket, or in a pouch attached to your belt or other part of your body)
- Look at the display of a device being operated by another person in the vehicle
- Pass a portable device to a passenger
- If a passenger, pass a portable device to a driver
These rules do not apply if you’re parked.
Importantly, you can use your mobile phone or other device, for example Apple Watch, to pay at a drive-through. It seems bizarre that this was not the case but that is an example of laws not keeping up!
For mounted devices and inbuilt navigation and entertainment system, you can now touch the device briefly to:
- initiate, accept or reject an audio call
- play or stream audio material
- adjust volume levels
- use a function on the device designed to assist you to operate the vehicle
- use a navigation function
- use a function on the device designed to monitor a driver’s behaviour or condition, or
- carry out a professional driving task
You cannot type, scroll, watch content, etc. on a mounted device. It must be a brief touch and it must be mounted on something commercially designed for that purpose, and the device must be secure.
Just as the technology we citizens use develops, so does that of Victoria Police. This week, AI cameras are being rolled out that are specifically designed to detect phone usage and whether or not a seat belt is being worn by drivers. These AI systems will take a photo of drivers and will detect if the driver is using their phone (not mounted of course, and beyond a tap!) and/or if a seatbelt is being worn. If either of these offences are detected, a human (yes we are not yet redundant) will review and determine if an offence has been committed.
Even with the green light to pay for your tasty Coffee Frappuccino® in the Starbucks drive-thru using your iPhone or Apple Watch (as of 31 March 2023!!), I still, as a lawyer and road user, recommend you still try avoid the usage of devices whilst driving to ensure you are fully focused and driving safely. But it is good to see some allowance for reasonable safe usage to be made legal and for the law to be continuing to adapt to our modern life.
Date Published: 3 April 2023