Car insurance question: What are the rules for driving and talking on my phone?

By Tara McCabe ·
Woman talking on phone while driving.

When it comes to insurance, the T&Cs on what you might or might not be covered for, could all be thrown out the (car) window if you do something illegal. 

That idea seems simple enough - you break the law, you void your car insurance. However, laws can be confusing and they can also vary between different states and territories. So it’s important to know what the rules are, before you get behind the wheel.

Talking and driving 

When we talk about road rules it’s important to acknowledge why they exist. In this case, it has been proven in numerous studies that distracted driving leads to more accidents. For instance, a 2017 report from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) revealed that a driver using a mobile phone, either hand-held or handsfree, is four times more likely to have a serious crash.

The report says that mobile phones are physically, visually and cognitively distracting. Yet despite these facts, in a survey of nearly 800 Queensland drivers conducted by QUT, 77% admitted to using their mobile phones while driving and 40% said they do it on a daily basis.

What are the rules? 

The first thing you should know is that using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal. All over Australia, no matter what state or territory you live in, regardless of whether you are fully licensed or not, holding and using a mobile phone behind the wheel is against the law.

The next thing to know is that if you hold a restricted licence you cannot use your mobile phone handsfree either. In fact, in most states and territories, it is illegal for learners, P1 and P2 drivers and sometimes even licence-holders under 25 to use a mobile phone in any capacity while driving.

Of course it’s a slightly different story for fully licensed drivers. If you hold a completely unrestricted licence, you may be able to use a mobile phone handsfree while driving in some instances. However, it is important to know that there are some pretty tight laws around this as well and that these laws can differ slightly depending on where you live.

For instance, NSW’s Centre for Road Safety says that fully licensed drivers can only use a mobile phone for making or receiving calls, if the phone is ‘secured in a cradle fixed to the vehicle’ or ‘can be operated without touching any part of the phone.’ 

How could using a mobile phone affect my car insurance? 

As you can see in most cases using a mobile phone behind the wheel is illegal. In fact, insurers will often class it as ‘reckless driving,’ meaning that if you have an accident and it is revealed that you were distracted by your mobile at the time, then your insurer probably won’t cover you. In other words, if you illegally use your mobile while driving, your insurance will, more often than not, be void.

Besides cancelling out your insurance, another reason to not use your mobile while on the road is that you could be hit with a hefty fine. In Western Australia, fines can be as high as $1,000 for creating or looking at a text, email, social media, photo, video or something similar.

QUT’s top tips for safe mobile phone use while driving include:

  • pull over and park safely, before making or returning calls
  • only return calls when you reach your destination
  • plan breaks in a long trip, to call family and friends
  • never read or send text messages, while driving
  • when using a hands-free kit, keep phone calls short, end a call if it is distracting and avoid calls in heavy traffic or bad weather.

Want to learn more about car insurance? Check out our car insurance guides for more handy information about getting cover for your wheels.

Tara McCabe
Tara McCabe
Money writer

Tara McCabe writes across all areas of personal finance here at Mozo from banking through to insurance. Tara is expert at practical money tips, showing readers ways to live richer and be socially conscious while doing it. She earned a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Canterbury Christ Church University.