From creating and sending voice-operated text messages via Siri to using phones to pay at drive-through restaurants, grey areas are emerging in WA’s road rules since the rise of technology.
When it comes to utilising smartphone voice control such as Siri, Bixby or Google to construct and send messages, the penalty could be $400 and three demerits if the phone isn’t placed in a fixed holder.
Despite using hands-free, “creating, sending or looking at a text message” while driving is illegal unless it is through a built on bluetooth system – such as Car Play and Android Auto – or the device is placed in a cradle.
WA Police deem smart watches as a “visual display unit” under the State’s traffic laws and the penalty is a $300 fine and three demerit points.
However, no one has been fined in WA for using a smartwatch while driving.
Visual display units also include car TVs and navigational equipment.
The position of your phone can also be an issue. Phones can’t be on your lap, shirt, wedged between you shoulder and neck or in a bra.
While devices aren’t technically supposed to be on your body, a WA Police spokesman said if a smartwatch wasn’t being fiddled with and was only used to check time it wouldn’t be an issue.
In the Road Traffic Code 2000, just to “operate any other function of the phone” is illegal while a vehicle is moving or stationary but not parked.
Whether it’s an email, video, photo or text message, any communication using a phone is an offence.
With the likes of Apple Pay and Samsung Wallet people are ditching their baggage and digitalising their lives, however, the convenience isn’t encouraged during that McDonald’s or Hungry Jacks run.
While it isn’t a gazetted road, WA Police have encouraged people to refrain from using their devices. Technically, it isn’t an offence though.
The general rule is no touching – no exception. But technically, there is. You can use your phone while driving to make a 000 call.
Almost 50 fines were handed out every day last year to motorists caught in the act, with 17,697 infringements issued in 2018, reaching an all-time high — up almost 6 per cent from the 16,718 fines dished out in 2017.
The number of fines has soared by 3320, or 23 per cent, since 2014, when fines were bumped up from $250 to $400.
WA Police were contacted a breakdown on just how many people were flouting the law by using phones, smartwatches or other devices on the road. However, a WA Police spokeswoman said because the offence was simply classed as “inattention” it was hard and time-consuming to breakdown the exact statistics.
While camera detection has been trialled, it’s not yet enforced in Western Australia and as it currently stand the image would get knocked back in court anyway as officers are required to stop the vehicle in question and have a description of the phone.
In September, the State Government released a review of the road traffic code which noted there could be an argument for some relaxation of the mobile offence in certain categories, such as ride sharing and taxi drivers who use navigational devices, job schedulers and payment equipments.
These operators need to touch screens while accepting jobs.