Make sure you are up to speed with the law before you drive this summer

This summer it will be an offence to drive and use your hand held mobile phone and to drive or attempt to drive a motor vehicle when a person is impaired and their blood contains evidence of the use of a controlled drug or any prescription medicine.

Don't hand hold your mobile phone and drive

As at 1 November 2009 it is now only legal to use a mobile phone to make, receive or end a call when driving if:

  • the driver does not have to hold or manipulate the phone to do so (i.e. the mobile phone is completely voice activated); or
  • the mobile phone is securely mounted to the vehicle and the driver manipulates the mobile phone infrequently and briefly.

Drivers are not allowed to create, send, or read text messages while driving under any circumstances. However, a driver may use a hand held mobile phone if the driver is using the phone to make a 111 or *555 call and it is unsafe or impracticable for the driver to stop and park the vehicle to make the call. It is not Parliament's intent to make it illegal for motorists to use SatNav or music functions on their mobile phones, provided these are mounted in the vehicle and are manipulated infrequently and briefly.

An infringement fee of $80 and 20 demerit points is the penalty for those breaching the ban on using hand held mobile phones while driving.

Don't drug and drive

From 1 December 2009 a police officer will have the ability to require a person to undergo a compulsory impairment test if they have good cause to suspect a person has consumed either prescribed medication or illegal drugs. An individual can be required by a police officer to undergo an impairment test if they are:

  • a person whom a police officer has good cause to suspect has recently driven or attempted to drive a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs; or
  • the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident, or if they are unable to locate the driver, then a person whom the police officer has good cause to suspect was in the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Proposed impairment tests include balance (the one-leg stand test), co-ordination (the walk and turn test), and the eye-pupil response test. If a person fails the impairment test then a blood test will follow to establish whether the person has taken a controlled drug or any prescribed medication.

It is not an offence if the person consuming the controlled drug or prescription medicine has done so in accordance with:

  • a current and valid prescription; and
  • any instructions from a health practitioner or the manufacturer of the drug or medicine.

It is also not an offence if the person has been administered the drug or medicine by a health practitioner without a prescription and they have complied with any instructions the health practitioner has given them.

The penalties for drug-impaired driving are similar to the current penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol; six months disqualification of licence and a fine of up to $4,500.

Conclusion

If you want to stay connected to the mobile phone network while driving then it is imperative you get a hands free car kit or pull over safely and legally to make or take a call. Alternatively, simply turn your mobile phone off while driving. If you are taking prescription medicine and you intend to drive, ensure you take the medicine in accordance with your health practitioners' and/or the manufacturers' instructions. Please contact Douglas Mitchell or any other member of the traffic and transport team we have at Turner Hopkins as they are more than willing to answer any queries you may have regarding these matters or any other area concerning the use of our roads.

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