New road rules coming to Victoria – effective 31st March 2023
What are the new rules?
New AI-enabled cameras will be installed across the state with the aim of detecting phone use and drivers safety particularly around seatbelts.
The new rules will extend existing mobile phone rules to cover modern technology – as one third of drivers admit to using their phone illegally while driving.
The new rules set out five types of devices:
- Portable devices: including mobile phones, tablets, media players, hand-held game consoles, laptops and smart watches not being worn.
- Inbuilt devices: including integrated navigation, infotainment, dispatch systems or heads-up displays – this also includes older inbuilt entertainment devices like radios, cassette and CD players with no display or very basic ‘non-smart’ displays.
- Mounted devices: including mobile phones or tablets secured according to manufacturer’s instructions in a commercially designed and manufactured mount or holder.
- Wearable devices: including smart watches, smart glasses and wearable heads-up displays.
- Motor bike helmet devices: including heads-up displays, communicators, cameras and inbuilt or secured mobile phones.
Devices connected to a vehicle’s inbuilt device by wireless or other means are still subject to their device type rules. For example, the rules for using your smart watch or unmounted mobile phone must still be followed when it is connected to a vehicle’s integrated system.
So, what am I allowed to do?
Well the rules vary depending on your licence. For instance, fully licensed drivers can 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 such as
- accepting or rejecting a job (e.g. taxi/Uber and delivery drivers);
- gathering information (e.g. freight or delivery or bus drivers gathering information about journeys)
If you are on your L’s or P’s, you 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 your lap or resting on any part of your body or clothes (unless it is in a pocket or a holding pouch attached to your clothes e.g. your 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).
The only way to properly operate a device on your L’s or P’s is if you are parked. This means you must have pulled over to the side of the road or path on which you are travelling, out of the line of traffic, or appropriately positioned in a parking area/parking bay.
What about passengers in my car?
- Passengers are restricted from using some functions on an inbuilt or mounted because these devices are visible to the driver and have the potential to distract e.g. if showing social media or a video.
- There are no restrictions on passengers operating portable or wearable devices.
- However, passengers can only use an inbuilt / mounted / motor bike helmet device for the same purposes as a driver which are:
- Audio calls (no video because this could distract a driver).
- Playing or streaming audio material (music, podcasts, audio books etc).
- 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.
- Unlike drivers, passengers can scroll or enter information, text, numbers or symbols on the device when used for the above purposes.
What’s the penalty?
Motorists caught driving distracted will receive penalties of four demerit points and a $555 fine.
When does this start?
- The changes to Victorian road rules and regulations come into effect on 31 March 2023 and so the cameras will be switched on from this date.
- However, there will be a three (3) month introductory period (from 31 March to 30 June) for the new camera-detected offences. During this time, motorists will receive warning letters instead of fines.
How does this new tech work?
- The AI-enabled camera systems will capture high-resolution images of passing vehicles in all conditions, including poor weather and low light levels.
- The new technology will target drivers who are holding mobile phones or other devices when driving, as well as drivers and passengers who fail to wear a seatbelt.
- Once the driver does something wrong, the cameras will take photo which will be automatically flagged for review by human eye – otherwise, the image will be rejected.
Why are these rules being made?
- Distraction is a key contributor to road trauma with research showing the risk of drivers crashing increases when texting, browsing or emailing.
- Distraction is also involved in at least 11 per cent of fatalities – equal to 20 people each year whose death is avoidable.
- Driver distraction and non-compliance with seatbelt wearing requirements are significant causes of increased crash risk and road trauma.
- Research shows that distracted driver camera technology alone has the capacity to prevent 95 casualty crashes and save the community and government $21 million a year.
- Previously the only way drivers could be detected illegally using mobile phones while driving or not wearing their seatbelt was by in-person detection by Victoria Police.
- The Department of Justice and Community Safety conducted a three-month trial of distracted driver camera technology in 2020 and found the technology capable of reliably detecting illegal mobile phone use and other risky behaviours such as seatbelt wearing offences.
Where can I find more information about this?
- VicRoads: https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/new-vic-road-rules-2023
- RACV: https://www.racv.com.au/on-the-road/driving-maintenance/road-safety/road-rules/mobile-phones.html
- 9News: https://www.9news.com.au/national/phone-seatbelt-detection-cameras-to-be-rolled-out-across-victoria-everything-you-need-to-know-explained/08c78db7-4bec-4ff2-b322-39139c085af4
- Drive car news: https://www.drive.com.au/news/victoria-expands-driver-distraction-laws-to-keep-up-with-technology/
What do I do if I get caught and need some help?
Contact the Deakin Student Legal Service (DSLS). The DSLS provides free and independent legal advice where we can discuss the fine and your options. Contact us by:
- Completing the online form (https://eclc.org.au/can-eclc-assist-you/legal-programs/sort-it-deakin-legal-service-for-students/#resources) and then one of our intake team will contact you to collect more information and set up an appointment with one of our lawyers; or
- Burwood and cloud students: 1300 325 200
- Geelong and cloud students: 1300 430 599