New road rules make it illegal to handle a mobile while driving in NSW

Siri might be useful in Australia

Texting while driving is about to become a whole lot more expensive in New South Wales, with the state government passing new legislation that makes it illegal to touch your phone while driving.

The new laws, set to come into play from November 1, forbid the use of a phone unless they are mounted.

"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 mobile phone is secured in a fixed mounting; or if not in a mounting, use of the mobile phone must not require a driver to touch or manipulate the phone in any way" the new law states.

In other words, voice control of a smartphone through a digital assistant like Siri is fine, although you can't press and hold the home button to activate it unless you are parked.

What's more, the act of holding a mobile phone in your hand while driving is set to become strictly prohibited, unless you are handing the phone to a passenger.

Harsh penalties

Breaking these new road rules will not only set you back a minimum of $298 in fines, but will also cost you three demerit points from your license.

If you get caught breaking the rules in a school zone, the fine jumps to $397 and four demerit points.

Similar laws have been suggested for the United States and UK, while other states in Australia have had similar laws for a while.

There's no question that the use of mobile phones while driving is an inherent safety risk. The government is hoping that by introducing stiff penalties akin to speeding and driving without a seatbelt, it will dissuade drivers from using their phone while driving.

But it's going to be a tough ask, especially for motorists stuck in Sydney's gridlock every morning on their commute to work.

Via: The Register

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Editor (Australia)

Nick (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Australian editor, covering all the latest news and reviews from the Great Southern Land. Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.