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by Tim Beissmann

The NSW Government has announced a series of changes to the road rules affecting the use of mobile phones while driving and relating to conduct at intersections, roundabouts and around pedestrians.

The changes come into effect on November 1, 2012, and apply to all road users across the state.

The new laws make it clear that a driver in a moving or stationary vehicle (unless parked) must not hold a phone in their hand other than to pass the phone to a passenger.

The penalty for breaking the law is three demerit points and a $298 fine, or four points and $397 in a school zone.

The rule states that while a vehicle is moving or stationary (but not parked) a driver may only use a mobile phone to make or receive a call or use the audio playing function if the phone is secured in a fixed mounting. If not in a mounting, use of the phone must not require the driver to touch or manipulate the phone in any way.

Learner and Provisional P1 drivers are not permitted to use any function of a phone (including hands-free) while driving.

Additionally, ‘visual display units’, including devices such as smartphones and GPS units, being used as a driver’s aid function (e.g. navigation) may only be used if they are secured in a fixed mounting. The mounting must be commercially designed and built for the purpose, and positioned where it does not obscure the driver’s view.

As with mobile phones, the penalty for inappropriate use of a visual display unit is three demerit points and a $298 fine, or four and $397 in a school zone.

A number of traffic-related offences have also been updated.

The penalty for failing to give way to a pedestrian crossing the road that you are turning into is also three demerit points and a $298 fine, and four and $397 in a school zone.

Concerning roundabouts, drivers entering roundabouts and intending to turn either left or right must give sufficient warning to other road users by signalling before entering the roundabout. Previously, drivers had to indicate only when entering the roundabout.

Additionally, when exiting a roundabout, drivers must always indicate a left turn just before exiting, whether turning left, right or even straight ahead, unless is it impractical to do so.

Failure to obey these rules attracts two demerit points and a $165 fine.

Drivers may also receive three demerit points and a $298 fine for performing a U-turn over a single continuous dividing line, a single continuous dividing line to the left of a broken line, or two parallel continuous dividing lines. The penalty increases to four points and up to $1191 for drivers of heavy vehicles, while cyclists can also be given a $66 fine.

A document detailing all the changes can be downloaded from the NSW Roads and Maritime Services website (formally the RTA).




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