Can I Use My Phone’s Bluetooth or Satellite Navigation While Driving in NSW?

by Sonia Hickey
Phone while driving

A young single Mum from Sydney has found out the hard way that ignorance of the road rules is not an acceptable defence, despite how obscure the rules may be.

20-year old Celina Selman was driving home after picking her daughter up from day care when she was pulled over by police and asked to undertake a random breath test.

She drove away from the encounter with $1000 worth of fines, for having her phone’s Bluetooth connected to her car, and for having her daughter unrestrained.

Touching your phone to use Bluetooth is illegal

In New South Wales, it is illegal for fully licensed drivers to touch a phone to use an audio function such as Bluetooth to play music, unless the phone is secured in a fixed cradle.

Restricted drivers such as Learners and P-Platers are not permitted to touch a phone to use an audio function, even if the phone is secured in a fixed cradle.

Drivers face a fine of $349 and 5 demerit points for breaking this rule.

Summary of the rules when it comes to mobile phone use

The following table summarises the rules when it comes to mobile phone use in New South Wales:

Type of use Is it legal for unrestricted licence holders? Is it legal for learner and provisional licence holders?
Making or receiving audio phone calls It is legal if the phone is:

 

1.     Secured in a cradle that is fixed to the vehicle; or

2.     Able to operate without touching any part of the phone (including Bluetooth controls).

 

It is otherwise illegal.

No. It is illegal.
Using audio functions, including music No. It is illegal.
Use as an aid to driving such as satellite navigation It is legal if the phone is secured in a cradle fixed to the vehicle.

 

It is otherwise illegal

No. It is illegal.
Accessing your digital driver licence It is legal after a police officer has requested that you do so.

It is otherwise illegal.

Making a transaction such as the use of a voucher or coupon (eg in a drive through restaurant) It is legal if the vehicle is either stationary or off the road, such as in a carpark, drive way or drive through.

 

It is otherwise illegal.

The law on child restraints

Ms Selman was also fined for not having a child properly restrained in the back seat.

She told police that she was going to pull over to get her daughter back into her car seat before she was pulled over, although the officer did not consider this an acceptable excuse and fined her accordingly.

In New South Wales, children aged under seven years must be in an approved child restraint when travelling in a vehicle.

A child restraint is a forward‑facing or rear-facing child car seat, also referred to as a baby car seat or baby capsule, or a booster seat.

The problem is that as children get older, they learn to undo seatbelts themselves and it can be difficult for parents to find a safe place to pull over and restrain them, particularly in heavy traffic and on busy roads.

However, breaching this rule can attracts a fine.

For a child who is aged at least 4, but under 7-years, must be:

  • Restrained in a suitable and properly fastened and adjusted forward facing approved child restraint that has an inbuilt harness to it; or
  • Put on a properly positioned approved booster seat, restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt (which is properly adjusted and fastened) or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly fastened and adjusted; or
  • If the child is seated in a seating position in an area of the motor vehicle that is designed primarily for carrying goods, the child must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash style seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or has the hip restrained by a suitable lap type seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, and has the upper body retrained by an approved child safety harness that’s properly adjusted and fastened.

Ms Selman uploaded a video to TikTok voicing her frustration at not being given a warning, instead of being slapped with significant fines, which she says she will struggle to pay.

Enforcement is the name of the law

But gone are the days of community policing. Police now have quotas to fill and procedures in place which mean that while officers retain discretionary powers not to issue fines, they may not use them as much as they used to.

While the woman can have her fines reviewed by Revenue NSW, or enter into flexible payment arrangements until the debt is paid, the only other option is to fight the matter in court which can be costly.

Courts also have the power to impose harsher penalties if a person is guilty of an offence.

After the video was uploaded to social media, a number of people expressed sympathy, with others admitting they did not know the Bluetooth rule.

Road users have a responsibility to keep themselves informed of updates to road rules and traffic law.

Demerit points NSW

If you are given a fine that includes demerit points, it generally takes three years and four months from the date of the offence to recoup the points.

The number of points relating to each licence type are as follows:

  • Unrestricted licence: 13 points
  • Professional driver: 14 points
  • Provisional P2 licence: 7 points
  • Provisional P1 licence: 4 points
  • Learner licence: 4 points

Going to court for a traffic offence?

If you are going to court for a traffic offence, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference with a traffic lawyer based in Parramatta, the Sydney CBD or any one of our other locations across the Sydney metropolitan area and beyond.

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team.

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