The use of mobile phones while driving has been made a traffic offence under the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Mobile Devices) Regulations 2010. Drivers can now face severe penalties if they disobey this new law. The Law creates three new traffic laws:
1. If you have charge of or you are driving a motor vehicle it is illegal to hold or use any "hand-held mobile devices". Simply put, you can't hold a phone and drive.
2. If you are supervising a driver with a provisional permit it is illegal to use any "hand-held mobile devices".
3. If you have charge of or you are driving a motor vehicle it is illegal to use any "wireless communication device" to view, send, or compose an electronic message. Simply put, you can't read or send messages while driving.
Any person in breach of any of these three laws will be liable to a fine of $1,500 or imprisonment for three months. It is important to understand the meanings of "mobile device" and "wireless communication device". Mobile device" means a mobile telephone or any other device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.
This definition covers any variations or development of cell phones that may take place in the future which may not be considered cell phones as we know it today. A "wireless communication device" means a device used to transfer information over a distance without the use of electrical conductors or wires. A cell phone sending out text messages or a pager is an example of such a device.
Also important to know is the meaning of "hand-held." A mobile telephone or other device is treated as "hand-held" if it is held or is required to be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function.
For example, the use of a cell phone on the function known as "speakerphone" is still hand-held. A person using the cell phone while driving a vehicle with the speakerphone in use is still in breach of the law and can be faced with a penalty.
There are exceptions to the law against the use of cell phones while driving. A person is allowed to use a mobile device while driving a motor vehicle on the road if that device is in hands-free mode. For example, you may use your cell phone while driving if you are using a "Bluetooth headset". If the vehicle is off the road or lawfully parked on the roadway, not in motion, and not impeding traffic, the driver may use his mobile device without penalty.
The restriction on the use of mobile phones does not apply to the driver of an ambulance, fire service vehicle or police service vehicle. This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser.