Mobile phones and visual display units

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. We have summarised the rules below to help you know when you can and can’t use technology while driving or riding.

This section covers: 

Mobile phone use by drivers

Learner and Probationary drivers license holders, and riders who have held a motor cycle license for less than three years (issued after 1 October 2014), are not allowed to use a mobile phone at all while driving (including when stationary but not parked). This means no use of mobile phones for any purpose.

Other drivers, can only use a mobile phone while driving (including when stationary but not parked) to make or receive an audio phone call or use the audio/music functions is allowed if the phone:

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle, OR
  • can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone.

This means a phone must be in a cradle or other holder, or connected to a hands free device (such as a wireless Bluetooth device, or an earpiece that is connected to the phone via a cord) to legally use it. If connected to a hands free device, you must not hold the phone in your hand, or press any buttons on the phone itself, or touch any part of the body of the phone to answer or make a phone call.

Operating any other function of the phone while driving is prohibited. This includes:

  • video messaging
  • text messaging
  • emailing
  • entering or placing anything into the phone (other than by voice)
  • sending or looking at anything in the phone
  • turning the phone on/off.

A mobile phone does not include a CB radio or other two-way radio. Police and other emergency vehicles are exempt from this rule.

Under the rules:

  • Driving includes when stopped at traffic lights, and
  • Prior to 1 July 2017, the rules clarified that for the purpose of using a mobile phone, a driver could be legally parked with their keys in the ignition or the vehicle running. However, the vehicle must still be legally parked or pulled off the road so that a hand-held mobile can be used. This amendment was only added in 2013 to make the rules clearer. In the rules that apply from 1 July 2017, the clause has been removed. RACV asked VicRoads why it was removed and have been informed that it was a mistake that will be corrected as soon as possible. We will update the advice on this page once it is updated.

It is important to make sure that if you do park your vehicle to answer your mobile phone that you are not breaking other road rules. For example, pulling over into the emergency stopping lane on a freeway is not allowed except in emergency situations. Answering your mobile phone would generally not be considered an emergency situation.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 300.

Drivers and motorcyclists using a mobile phone as a GPS

Learner and Probationary drivers license holders, and riders who have held a motor cycle license for less than three years (issued after 1 October 2014), are not allowed to use a mobile phone at all while driving (including when stationary but not parked). This means no use of mobile phones for any purpose.

For other drivers, using a phone as a GPS while driving is allowed if the phone:

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle, OR
  • can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone.

When using a mobile as a GPS, motorcyclists are not required to secure the phone in the above manner, however they must not hold it in their hands.

For the road rules on using a GPS device see the section below on Visual display units (including GPS).

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 300.

Frequently asked questions

I am using a wireless hands free device or an earpiece connected to the phone via a cord, what do I need to do?

When using a wireless device or any other hands free device (including earpieces that are connected to the phone via a cord) to make or receive a phone call or to listen to music you must ensure that while you are using such a device, that you do not hold the phone in your hand, or press any buttons on the phone, or touch any part of the phone.

If using the phone hands free, the phone doesn’t need to be in a holder.

Touching/holding the phone includes being held by, or resting on, any part of the driver’s body, but does not include being held in the pocket of the driver’s clothing or in a pouch worn by the driver.

I am using a cradle or other commercial holder, what do I need to do?

If your phone is in a holder you can only use it to make or receive a phone call, for GPS, or to listen to music. You can touch the phone while it is in a holder for these functions only. The holder must be commercially designed and manufactured and fixed to the vehicle as intended by the manufacturer.

I have to touch my phone to make a call, what do I need to do?

Having to dial numbers isn’t the safest way to make a call, so RACV recommends investing in a handsfree device that will enable you to make a call without having to touch the phone. If you need to touch your phone to dial numbers to make a call, the phone must be mounted to the vehicle. 

Can I use my phone to send a message or email?

No. Operating any other functions of the phone while driving is prohibited including video messaging, text messaging, emailing, entering or placing anything in the phone (other than by voice), sending or looking at anything in the phone or turning the phone on/off.

What must I do to ensure my vehicle is parked?

To ensure you are 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 then ensure the vehicle is in park and the hand brake (park brake/emergency brake) is on. If your vehicle is legally parked, for the purpose of using a phone - the key to the vehicle may remain located in its ignition lock and the engine of the vehicle may continue to run.

Can I hold my mobile phone?

No. Holding the phone (whether or not engaged in a phone call) is prohibited and includes resting the phone on the driver’s lap, or between the drivers head and shoulder. However the driver may pass the phone to a passenger.

A driver is not considered to be holding or touching a phone if it is in the pocket of the driver’s clothing or in a pouch worn by the driver.

What other rules apply to using a phone while driving?

Using a mobile phone, even legally, can be distracting and may lead to other rules being broken. For example a driver who is concentrating on their phone conversation may drive erratically or cause a crash through inattention and therefore be charged with careless driving. A mobile phone that is in a cradle or other mount must not obscure the driver’s view of the road.

What is RACV’s advice for the use of mobile phones while driving?

It’s safest to minimise the use of a phone while driving as it is a distraction. If you must make or receive calls, use a hands-free system and only do so when traffic conditions are good and keep the conversations short.

Some mobile phones have a do not disturb while driving setting. Otherwise, VicRoads have released an android app that prevents drivers from being distracted by their phone while driving. Road Mode will provide a summary of the calls and messages received during the trip. Visit the VicRoads website to download Road Mode.


Mobile phone use by bicycle riders and users of wheeled recreational devices

From 1 July 2017, the following new rule applies, including on-the-spot infringements.

People using bicycles, wheeled recreational devices and vehicles that aren’t considered motor vehicles will be subject to the same rules for mobile phone use that drivers are.

The rider of a bicycle, or a person travelling in or on a wheeled recreational device, or the driver of a vehicle that is not a motor vehicle, can only use a mobile phone while the bicycle, wheeled recreational device or vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked if:

they are making or receiving an audio phone call or using the audio/music function and the phone

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the bicycle, wheeled recreational device or vehicle, OR
  • can be operated without touching any part of the phone.

OR

the phone is being used as a navigation device and the phone is

  • secured in a commercially designed holder that is fixed to the bicycle, wheeled recreational device or vehicle, OR
  • can be operated without touching any part of the phone.

Operating any other function of the phone while driving is prohibited. This includes:

  • video messaging
  • text messaging
  • emailing
  • entering or placing anything into the phone (other than by voice)
  • sending or looking at anything in the phone
  • turning the phone on/off.

Wheeled recreational devices include rollerblades, rollerskates, skateboards or a scooter that is not a motor vehicle.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 300.

Smartwatches

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. Smartwatches are sold by different brands under different names including Apple Watch, Samsung Gear and Pebble.

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, when it is worn by the driver.

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.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rules 299 and 300.

Visual display units

Visual display units are items with a screen such as MP3 music players, DVD players and tablet computers.

A driver must not drive a motor vehicle with a visual display unit operating if any part of the screen is visible to the driver or likely to distract a driver in another vehicle, unless it is a driver’s aid (such as a GPS or rear view screen). 

A driver may only use a visual display unit if the vehicle is legally parked, or pulled off the road. Under the rules, a vehicle may be parked even though the key is in the ignition and the engine’s running. The rules don’t specify what a driver must do to be considered parked, so we suggest that after pulling over to park legally and safely, you ensure that your vehicle is in park and put the hand brake (otherwise known as a park brake or emergency brake) on.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 299.

GPS units and rear view camera screens

A visual display unit that is considered to be a driver’s aid (such as a GPS) must be an integrated part of the  vehicle design, or secured in a commercially designed holder that is fixed to the vehicle (such as the suction cup type that come with most GPS).

Motorcyclists are not required to secure their visual display unit in the above manner, however they must not hold the unit in their hands.

Other visual display units that are considered to be a driver's aid include dispatch systems, rear view screens and ticket-issuing machines.

For the rules around using a mobile phone as a GPS see the section above.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 299.

Where should I locate my GPS?

The rules require a driver to have a clear view of the road, and traffic, ahead, behind and to each side of the driver.  This means a GPS should be secured out of the central area of the windscreen so it does not obstruct the driver’s vision. In most vehicles this would be a location to the right of the steering wheel at the base of the windscreen or on the dash.