Life is busy, and sometimes the only free time you feel like you get to yourself is on the drive to work.

    • There is no law prohibiting putting on makeup when you’re behind the wheel
    • However, you could be fined for driving without due attention, or driving carelessly
    • Fines may apply

    Some people will listen to their favourite radio shows, music or podcasts to get ready for their day on the job. Others like to be a bit more practical, in that they are still in the process of getting ready for work when they’re driving to their place of employment.

    And while this might seem like a clever way to spend your time, it could see you cop a fine if you’re found to be applying makeup when you’re driving.

    That’s because it could be considered careless driving, in the same way that eating a bowl of cereal, having a shave, or even doing your hair could be considered careless. See: Is it legal to eat while driving.

    There’s a difference between applying foundation when you’re stopped at a traffic light – they’re called vanity mirrors for a reason! – and driving your car while brushing on your blush… and it all basically boils down to your attention levels.

    Studies have shown that female drivers – who are more likely to apply makeup and, frankly, better at multitasking! – drive and apply at a very high rate. A study in 2013 indicated that 43 per cent of women have applied some kind of makeup while driving (but note, that includes things like lip gloss…).

    The laws around Australia pretty much reflect that if you’re distracted while you’re driving – in other words, if your attention isn’t on the job of driving, and you’re possibly taking your hands off and/or eyes off the road to do something other than control the vehicle, you could get in trouble. Here’s a rundown of the laws that could apply if you were to be caught doing your makeup when you should have been concentrating on the road ahead.

    NSW

    There is no specific law for doing your makeup while driving in New South Wales, but a driver may be charged with negligent driving if they were deemed to be putting their own life and other people’s lives in danger, depending on the circumstances.

    The maximum penalty for negligent driving for a first-time offender is $3300, or 18 months imprisonment. You might also lose your licence for life, too.

    I mean, you’d have to be driving and doing your makeup for a feature film in order to get in that kind of trouble, but it is worth keeping in  mind.

    Queensland

    Doing your makeup while driving isn’t illegal in QLD, but the state’s Transport and Main Roads department has reinforced in recent times that drivers must have “proper control of a vehicle” and if you were “driving without care and attention”, you could cop a fat fine.

    If you only have one hand on the steering wheel, or if you are caught looking away from the road ahead for a period of time, you could be hit with a $575 fine and three demerit points.

    Victoria

    The state has just rolled out a number of cameras to try to catch people doing the wrong thing while behind the wheel, but the new AI-based technology used in these baddy-catchers isn’t smart enough to catch you trying to do your makeup.

    Will cameras catch drivers doing other distracted behaviours like eating or putting on makeup? No. The AI-enabled camera systems will be trained to detect illegal portable device (includes mobile phones) use and non-wearing or incorrect wearing of seatbelts.”

    Even so, drivers who are distracted could still be fined if they are deemed to driving in a careless manner: Careless driving of a motor vehicle by a full licence holder – three demerits, $397 fine.

    South Australia

    There is no specific law in SA about applying makeup while driving, but there are rules that could be left open to interpretation when it comes to distracted driving.

    The state’s road rules handbook calls out distractions such as eating, drinking, smoking and talking to other passengers, and the state government’s Towards Zero Together initiative goes further, classifying the four main types of driver distraction: 

    • Visual – the things you see
    • Auditory – the things you hear
    • Physical – the things you do with your hands
    • Cognitive – the things you think about

    So, even daydreaming about the shade of lipstick you could have worn instead could be dangerous, and may fall under the road rule “Driving vehicle without having proper control of the vehicle”, and that’d make for a $215 fine.

    ACT

    “Driving without proper control” is what you could be alleged to be doing if you’re applying makeup while driving. In the ACT, that could make for a $279 fine.

    NT

    The NT’s Driving Safety Checklist calls out grooming specifically: “Take a break and pull over rather than eating, drinking, smoking or grooming when you’re driving.”

    So, don’t drive and do your brows, bro.

    WA

    Driving without due care and attention is what you could be found to be doing if you are applying makeup while motoring in WA. Fines could equal $300 fine and three demerits.

    Tasmania

    In Tassie, you can embrace your inner adventurer, so leave the Revlon alone and go for the ‘wild’ look! Seriously, though, if you don’t have “proper control of your vehicle” or are found to be “driving without due care and attention”, you could face a $173 fine and three demerit points. 

    Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.

    Matt Campbell
    Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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