Legislation in Queensland is being updated to reflect the growing use of mobile phones for payments and digital licences.

    From Monday July 26, 2021, drivers in Queensland can’t be penalised for holding their phone behind the wheel provided the vehicle is stationary and they’re doing one of the following:

    • Bringing up a licence, permit, authority or other document for a police officer or another authority
    • Using the phone to pay for goods and services, e.g. at a drive-through
    • To use a “card or other thing” to enter a road-related area, e.g. a parking structure

    The Queensland Government trialled a digital driver’s licence in the Fraser Coast region in 2020.

    Previously, handling your phone in any way other than using voice prompts was only permitted if you were on an open or P2 licence, and you were using either a navigation or rideshare app, answering a call or skipping a song.

    Those on learner or P1 licences can’t use their phone at all, including hands-free and speaker functions.

    Another amendment coming into effect from July 26 prohibits drivers from seeing the face of the phone “while the phone, or a function of the phone, is operating”.

    The legislation previously called out only the physical touching of the phone by the driver.

    The change essentially means you can’t have your phone resting on your lap while driving, even if it’s locked or you’re stopped in traffic. Don’t pass it to your passenger, either.

    The changes largely align Queensland’s rules on mobile phone usage with New South Wales, and coincide with the state’s rollout of permanent mobile phone detection cameras on July 26.

    From July 26 to October 31 this year, there’ll be a grace period where offenders detected on these cameras will receive warning notices instead of fines.

    From November 1, fines will be issued.

    You can be fined $1033 and receive four demerit points for using a mobile phone illegally while driving. This includes when you’re waiting in heavy traffic or at a red light.

    Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said there’ll be a mix of fixed and mobile cameras, and the locations won’t be published.

    “Some of the cameras will be mobile, and we won’t be telling people where they are either,” he said.

    “Drivers should expect to be caught anywhere, anytime, whether they’re driving in the city or on a regional highway.”

    The cameras will also detect if front-seat passengers aren’t wearing their seat belts.

    The Queensland Government says driver distraction contributes to almost 20 per cent of serious injuries and 12 per cent of all fatalities on Queensland roads, and that using a moible phone while driving has the same impact as having a blood alcohol reading between 0.07 and 0.10.

    The cameras are part of a $1.69 billion road safety plan designed to address a rising road toll.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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