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New Oz road rules forbid touching mobes

Can we cash in on the hands free rules, Siri?

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Motorists in Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, will not be permitted to even touch their mobile phones while their car engine is running, under new laws to take effect on November 1st.

Outlined in this document (PDF), the new road rules state that “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."

For phones outside a mounting, “use of the mobile phone must not require a driver to touch or manipulate the phone in any way.”

Such manipulation does not include voice-activated features, but the law also means “All other functions including texting, video messaging, online chatting, reading preview messages and emailing are prohibited."

The new laws also make it an offence for drivers to even hold their phones, “other than to pass the phone to a passenger.”

Those sitting behind the wheel of parked cars with the engine off aren't effected by the new law, but touching a phone while stuck in a traffic jam with the engine on (a very, very common occurrence in Sydney) will set drivers up for a AUD$298 fine and accrual of three demerit points. Drivers with 13 or more demerit points have their licences suspended.

The new rules are probably good news for manufacturers of phone mountings and handsets with voice recognition features.

Centre for Road Safety General Manager Marg Prendergast has suggested such phones as a better alternative, but also warned any use of a handset on the road increases the chances of an accident. He therefore urged NSW motorists with hands-free phones to make only short calls.

Vulture South Sales Director Sam Howell observed your correspondent penning this story, inquired about its content, then swiftly described the laws as “insanity”.

“That half my productivity out the window,” he said. ®

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