An Aussie driver has been accused of committing a “very silly” crime, highlighting a bad habit on the road which may be fuelled by confusion over the law.
A photo of the woman driving while FaceTiming was captured by a passenger in another car in Queensland, where the offence is punishable by four demerit points and $1033 – one of the highest penalties in the country.
“Take a look at this donut,” a Reddit user sharing the Brisbane photo explained. “On a face time call and swerving all over the road — nearly got side swiped by a truck.”
The main response on social media was disappointment, as well as underscoring how common a mistake like this is.
“Unbelievable how stupid this is,” one person said. “I witnessed someone on a voice call (hands free, not illegal) but with a pen and notepad whilst steering on the M1 this week. Just crazy!”
“I’ve seen this from multiple drivers, even though the phone is in the holder,” said another. “So so dangerous! I’d report it.”
“I do have plenty of zoom calls where attendees are driving. WFH and flexible work arrangement has driven these numbers through the roof,” a third person said.
Though some didn’t actually realise FaceTiming while driving is illegal.
NRMA clarifies laws surrounding phone usage
NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury, emphasised that “not only is the act illegal but also very stupid”.
“The law is that you can only use your phone for a voice-call or for GPS while it’s sitting in the cradle or Bluetooth,” Mr Khoury told Yahoo News Australia.
“Absolutely do not use FaceTime, TikTok, all those functions when you’re driving. It’s illegal, its dangerous — the temptation to focus on what’s on the screen is obviously too great for some people.”
According to Budget Direct, distracted driving is the primary cause of nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes, with 45 percent of serious injuries being caused by yearly crashes in Australia.
Mr Khoury also pointed out that “if you get caught, the fines are quite significant”.
“The demerit points are very strict and tough, as they should be, and on a double demerit weekend you can lose 10 points in NSW if you’re found using your phone illegally,” he said.
Pandemic fuels illegal habit
With work habits being changed by the pandemic, it also seems to be common for online meetings to be conducted on the road, which people don’t always do legally.
“We’ve all been in meetings where people are driving when they’ve dialled in and my strong recommendation is first of all, don’t do FaceTime while you’re driving and second of all, really, it’s only meant to be out of necessity (speaking to someone on the phone while driving),” Mr Khoury said.
“The thought that someone would be FaceTiming friends or jumping into a zoom meeting with your camera on — I mean apart from that being very frustrating for everyone else on the zoom call, you’re breaking the law, and you’re doing it during work hours.”
He has encouraged drivers to keep their eyes on the road and be “singularly focused”.
“Even when you’re just talking on the phone, we encourage drivers to be singularly focused on the road, so unless you absolutely have to have that conversation, even legally, we encourage people to just wait until you get out of the car,” Mr Khoury said.
What are the fines for using your phone illegally in Australia?
On top of five demerit points in NSW, residents will face a $352 fine ($469 in a school zone) for using a mobile phone hands-free for anything other than audio phone calls, audio functions and navigation, according to Allianz.
In Queensland it is four demerits and $1033, NT is three points and $500, WA is three points and $500 to $1000, SA is three points and $554, ACT is three to four points and $487 to $598, TAS is three points and $346 and lastly VIC is four points and $545.
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