Amendments to the Road Transport Act 2013 – Effective from 1 July 2018

From 1 July 2018 in NSW, new legislation comes into effect to improve road safety in three areas, mobile phone usage, drug-driving and drink driving.

Mobile Phone Camera Detection
Laws enabling cameras to detect driver’s mobile phone usage came into effect on 1 July 2018.  The technology allows stationary cameras to see into a vehicle and track the vehicle continuously for 50 metres.  If a mobile phone is detected being used then an infringement notice is automatically issued to the driver, without them even realising they have been caught.  The fine starts at $330 and a loss of four demerit points.

Learner, P1 and P2 licence holders are not permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving.  There are some circumstances where a person who holds an unrestricted driving licence CAN use a mobile phone while driving, if the phone is in a cradle fixed to the vehicle and doesn’t obscure the driver’s view of the road OR the phone is operated without touching any part of the phone such as via Bluetooth or voice activation.  If and only if those requirements are met then the following uses are permitted:

  1. To make or answer a call;
  2. To use the audio playing function (e.g. music); or
  3. As a driver’s aid (e.g. navigation/speed advisor app)

Even stopped at a traffic light a mobile phone cannot be used other than as above.

Cocaine testing is now in place 
Cocaine has been added to the list of the “prescribed illicit drugs” that are currently tested during roadside drug enforcement.  Whilst it has always been an offence to drive under the influence of the drug, previous detection of cocaine use was limited to blood and urine tests.  Cocaine can be detected in saliva anywhere between 12 and 48 hours after use.

The Road Safety Plan 2021 makes a commitment to double the number of roadside drug tests to 200,000 tests by 2020 giving New South Wales the largest roadside drug testing program in Australia.

Increase in penalty for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
In addition to the serious penalties already in place for low-range, mid-range and high-range drink driving, offences for DUI where a reading is not necessarily obtained or obtained within the requisite period of 2 hours from the time of driving, have had penalties increased to equal to or even above that which can be imposed for high-range drink driving offences.