Motorists in NSW can now download a digital copy of their licence and it will be deemed a legal form of identification on the roadside and to get into pubs and clubs.
However, there are some handy tips worth knowing so you don’t end up with a fine.
For starters, the display on your phone can’t be obscured by a cracked screen – and if your phone battery is flat you still need to produce a physical licence.
Otherwise you could still risk a $114 on the spot fine for “not produce driver’s licence”.
Police have also encrypted the digital image to prevent unscrupulous drivers from taking a screenshot of their licence when it was valid, to use later when it might be cancelled or suspended.
The digital licence has a moving holograph behind it to prove its authenticity, and police can ask motorists who present the digital licence to swipe down on their smartphone to make sure the information is “refreshed” and therefore up to date.
If you’ve lost your licence due to traffic or other offences the digital display will say “cancelled” or “suspended”, so drivers will no longer be able to say they didn’t know or weren’t notified.
There are also rules you need to be aware of when asked to present your licence on the side of the road.
Touching your phone while operating a motor vehicle in a line of traffic, such as when being stopped for a random breath test, is still technically a traffic offence so drivers need to wait until they have been asked to reach for their phone to display it to police.
When using the digital driver’s licence for ID purposes, the law says you do not need to hand anyone your phone – but you need to display it so they can verify your information.
“You don't have to hand over your phone. You may be asked to refresh your licence, by pulling down and releasing,” a message on the Service NSW app says when you install a digital copy of your licence.
“If you get pulled over by the police, do not pick up your phone until the officer requests to see your driver licence. Significant penalties apply for using a mobile phone illegally,” it continues.
There is even an easier way to exchange particulars following an accident, by scanning someone else’s digital licence using a special feature inside the Service NSW app that verifies the digital licence you’re being shown is real.
NSW has been trialling digital licences for almost two years but it is not the first to use the technology statewide. South Australia introduced a digital driver’s licence app in May 2017.
Service NSW enabled all motorists in the state to download their licence via the app after discreetly activating the feature on Monday 28 October, 2019.
It is presumed the government did not make a major announcement about the change to ensure the system didn’t crash under a stampede of interest from the more than 6.2 million motorists across the state.
Until this week, about 20,000 NSW drivers had taken part in a trial. The NSW digital licence has been in planning since 2015, but the first real-world trials did not start in NSW until late 2017, beginning in Dubbo, then Albury and eventually Sydney’s eastern suburbs.