Mobile phones and visual display units

Find out when and how you can use technology on the road.

In this section, we’ll address the most common road safety questions we receive on using technology on the road. The overarching principle is that if the technology is likely to cause distraction to you or someone driving another vehicle, you shouldn’t use it. We suggest turning on a do not disturb mode or similar setting before driving to avoid temptation.

Woman using her mobile phone in her car

Can I use my phone when driving?

Fully licensed drivers can use their phone for making or receiving audio calls, using the audio/music function or as a GPS if the phone is:

  • secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle, or
  • can be operated hands-free.

Even if you’re stuck in traffic or waiting at a red light, you can’t touch your phone to text, email, check social media or use the phone in any other way while you’re on the road. If you need to hold your mobile, you need to be legally parked or off the road.

See rule 300 of the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2017.

What do I need to do to ensure my vehicle is parked?

You must stop at a place where you can legally stop and leave the vehicle without it being a hazard. Our advice is to make sure the vehicle is in park with the hand brake (park brake/emergency brake) on. If your vehicle is legally parked the key to the vehicle may remain located in its ignition lock and the engine of the vehicle may continue to run.

Can learner and probationary drivers use a mobile phone on the road?

If you’re on your L or P plates, you can’t use a mobile phone for any purpose while on the road. You’ll need to be legally parked or off the road to be able to use your phone.

Can I touch my phone if it’s in a commercial holder?

You can only touch your phone while it’s in the holder to make or receive an audio call, for GPS navigation, or to listen to music. The holder must be commercially designed and intended for use in a vehicle.

Can I use a wireless hands-free device, or an earpiece connected to a device via a cord?

You can use a wireless device or any other hands-free device (including earbuds or headphones connected via a cord) to make or receive audio calls, listen to music or as a GPS. However, you need to make sure you aren’t holding the device in your hand or touching the phone.

You can’t rest a phone or music device on any part of your body while driving.

Cyclist using a mobile phone while riding

Do the same rules apply for cyclists?

People using bicycles, wheeled recreation devices and vehicles that aren’t considered motor vehicles still need to follow the same rules as motorists when it comes to mobile phone use.

A phone can only be used when making or receiving an audio call, as a GPS device or for listening to music, provided it is:

  • secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the bicycle/wheeled device, or
  • can be operated hands-free.

Texting, emailing, checking social media and operating the phone in any other way is not allowed.

Phone being used as a GPS in a commercial holder

What do I need to know about visual display units?

Devices like DVD players and tablets are considered visual display units. You must not drive with a visual display unit operating if any part of the screen is visible to you and likely to distract you or another driver. You can only use a visual display unit if the vehicle is legally parked, or off the road.

GPS devices and rear-view camera screens are visual displays that are considered to be a driver’s aid and can therefore be used when driving.

We suggest reading rule 299 of the  Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2017 for more information.

Where should I put my GPS?

The rules require you to have a clear view of the road and traffic around you. This means your GPS should be secured out of the central area of the windscreen, so it doesn’t block your vision. In most vehicles, this would be to the right of the steering wheel at the base of the windscreen or on the dash.

It must be a part of the vehicle or secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle. Motorcyclists don’t have to secure their visual display unit, however, you must not hold the unit in your hands (it can be used via Bluetooth).

Can I use my smartwatch while driving?

A Smartwatch is a watch that can be linked to the wearers mobile phone and enable them to access many of the functions of their phone through the watch.

Sometimes with new technologies, it’s hard to know what is and isn’t allowed under the road rules. As a general guide, if it’s likely to cause a distraction to the driver, or the driver of another vehicle, then you shouldn’t use it while driving.

Some uses of a Smartwatch are covered by the road rules that limit using mobile phones or visual display units, so drivers should avoid using Smartwatches while driving.

A Smartwatch should not be used for making or receiving phone calls, email, social media use, text or video messages, regardless of whether it is worn by the driver or not.

Fully licensed drivers may use a Smartwatch provided it is not worn, and is being used as a driver’s aid (for example, as a navigation device) or a music player or a mobile phone to make or receive phone calls. To use the Smartwatch the driver must not touch anything on the Smartwatch (for example, making and receiving calls needs to be hands-free via Bluetooth or similar means) or it must be secured in a commercially designed mounting affixed to the vehicle.

The summaries RACV provide on Victorian road rules are based on the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2017. We make sure to reference the exact rule where possible. When reading, keep in mind that we’re providing general information, not legal advice. If you’re looking for specific questions on any legal matter, consult with a lawyer for help.