There has been a fair bit of publicity recently in regard to changes to the road rules relating particularly to what drivers should do at roundabouts and what drivers can or cannot do in regard to mobile phones. As is usually the case, the reports in the news media have tended to be at best unhelpful and at worst inaccurate. Given the fact that these Rules will apply to many people on a daily basis, I thought it worthwhile to set out some of the features of the Rules for our clients in the hope that this may help them avoid problems.

Mobile Phones

The first thing to realize is that the new Rules only apply when the vehicle is moving or stationery but do NOT apply when the vehicle is parked. So, if the motor is switched off and you are parked, then you can use the phone.

The general position is that a driver may only use a mobile phone to make or receive calls, (or use the audio-playing or GPS function) if the mobile phone is secured in a fixed mounting, or if the mobile phone can be operated without being touched in any way.

If you have the phone mounted in a fixed mounting, it is legal to use the phone so long as it can be used without being physically touched by the driver. These days the technology is such that a lot of things can be done by voice command and if the phone is in a fixed mounting and the driver is not physically touching the phone but using voice command then there is no illegal action occurring.

However, a technical reading of the Rules would mean that it is still probably illegal for the driver to read messages even if the phone is mounted.

A driver can hold a phone to pass the phone to a passenger, however, if the driver holds the phone or touches the phone for any other purpose, then the driver is committing an illegal act.

Because the driver is not allowed to “touch” the phone, it would be unlawful for the phone to touch any part of the driver’s body (so it can’t be rested in your lap) unless you are touching it in the process of handing it to a passenger.

Learner and Provisional P1 drivers are not allowed to use ANY function of a phone—including hands free operation while driving or stationery. However, again, there is no illegal act occurring if the vehicle is parked.

The penalties for breaking the new mobile phone regulations is a loss of 3 demerit points and a fine of $298.00 (or a loss of 4 demerit points and a fine of $397.00 if the offence occurs in a school zone).

Roundabouts

The main features of the current version of the Rules are:-

Drivers entering a roundabout and intending to turn either left or right must give sufficient warning to other road users by signalling before entering the roundabout.

If there are arrows on the road pavement which indicate which direction you must travel in any particular lane, then you must follow or obey those markings.

No matter which way you are proposing to enter or exit a roundabout, you are required to give way to all vehicles, including bicycles, already in/ on the roundabout. Only enter when there is a safe gap to do so.

If you are going to turn left, you must give a left turning indication before entering the roundabout and you should enter the roundabout from the left hand lane and stay in that lane. You should indicate that you are making a left turn as you exit the roundabout.

If you are going to turn right, or you are making a u-turn then you have to indicate that you are turning right before you enter the roundabout and you have to stay in the right lane and then when you are exiting the roundabout you have to indicate as if you are making a left hand turn.

If you are going to go straight ahead then you can use either lane to enter the roundabout and as you are exiting you need to indicate as if you are going to make a left hand turn.

The penalties range from two (2) demerit points to four (4) demerit points and a fine of between $165.00 and $397.00 in the case of motor cars. For heavy vehicles, the fine can be as much as $1,191.00 and for cyclists $66.00.

An explanatory brochure in regard to Roundabouts can be downloaded from the internet by going to www.rms.nsw.gov.au.