Is it illegal to text while driving?
Yes, it's illegal to text while driving - or to even touch a hand-held device while you're behind the wheel - because mobile phone use has been proven to increase your risk of having an accident.
These days, most of us rely on texting as our key means of communication, and as such, many of us are masters of the mobile keyboard, able to fire off texts with barely a second thought. And so, when you're paused at the traffic lights, it can be very tempting to shoot off a text confirming that you're on your way or picking up milk.
But the consequences of texting while you're driving should be enough to encourage you to pull over if you need to send a message. Not only are you risking an accident by dividing your attention, but you're also risking a hefty penalty in all states and territories of Australia.
According to South Australia's MyLicence website, using a mobile phone while driving makes you four times more likely to have a crash.
Unsurprisingly, then, it's illegal to create, send or look at a text while you're on the road (so that means both while you're driving and when you're stationary but not parked). Western Australia's Road Safety Commission also specifies that creating, sending or looking at a text while you're driving is illegal, and that it will cost you a $400 fine and three demerit points.
Vic Roads information on driving with mobile phones clearly states that texting on the road impairs your physical, visual and cognitive abilities, and often leads to missing road hazards. As such, the penalty for texting while driving in Victoria is an on-the-spot fine of $476 and four demerit points.
In New South Wales and Tasmania, the penalties for touching a phone for any reason while on the road are pretty similar; as per the NSW Roads and Maritime Services demerits schedule, you're risking a $330 fine and four demerit points, while according to the Tasmanian Police, you're looking at a $300 fine and three demerit points.
In Queensland, as per the state government's website on driving and mobile phones, you're risking a $378 fine and three demerit points if you use your mobile phone while driving, stopped at the lights or stationary in congested traffic.
Similarly, the Northern Territory government's traffic offences site states that you're facing a $250 fine and three demerit points if you text while driving. And according to the Australian Federal Police webpage on driver distraction, in the ACT you're risking up to four demerit points for driving distracted, a $447 fine for using a hand-held mobile while driving or a $548 fine for messaging or social networking.
It's also worth remembering that, if you have a collision while you're breaking the law, there's a chance that your insurance coverage will be voided. While you should always check your specific agreement for details, be aware that any unlawful behaviour could jeopardise your insurance.
A quick note; this article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation.