Loophole closes for driver's common mobile phone excuse

Queensland has updated its laws to broaden the ban on mobile phone use while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

The Queensland government has announced it is closing a loophole in state laws which previously enabled motorists to escape a fine if caught using a phone without a SIM card behind the wheel.

The state had updated their road rules in 2021 to clarify what constituted illegal phone use while driving, but Transport Minister Mark Bailey shared that more updates have been actioned this month to ensure the “original intent” of the government’s laws are achieved.

“Specifically, it is illegal to use a mobile phone even if the phone function is not capable of being used or if it is being used for a function other than as a phone,” Mr Bailey said.

A road safety camera spots an individual using their phone whole driving.
Road safety cameras are dotted throughout Australia to catch motorists who illegally use their device while driving. Source: AAP

Last year, a Queenslander successfully appealed his fine in court after arguing the device he held while driving was an iPod for playing music, and did not have a SIM card and phone functionality.

The case was decided based on the laws of definition of a phone, with the magistrate finding that in terms of functionality the device was not operating as a phone at the time and she ruled him not guilty.

The new updates announced by Mr Bailey on Thursday restrict this argument from being used again as the law will no longer tolerate a device being touched, regardless of the activity, deeming it to be "as distracting and dangerous" as holding your device for phone calls.

“For example, it is illegal to use a mobile phone which does not have a SIM card to play music or as a camera while driving," he continued.

Mobile phone detection cameras above a sign in NSW.
Mobile phone detection cameras above a sign in NSW. Source: Google Maps

Does the loophole exist in other state and territories?

As the updated restrictions only apply to Queensland law, it could be argued that loopholes around the definition of a mobile phone may exist in other jurisdictions if challenged in court.

When fines are issued to motorists for illegal phone use after they are snapped by road safety cameras, police can obtain phone records to prove phone use.

Despite differences in state and territory laws, they all agree that holding a device or having it rest on your lap is distracting and poses a safety risk while driving a vehicle.

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