Drivers have taken to Facebook to excoriate the police, describing how they were fined over their passenger using a tablet. So, is this legal? And if so, how can you contest such a charge?
It’s a law you may not know about, but certainly, one worth brushing up on. You’re on a long drive and your front seat passenger is relaxing watching a YouTube clip or a movie on a tablet or smartphone. Seems harmless enough, right? Actually, as a driver, you can be given three demerit points and fined $337.00.
This rule is contained in regulation 299 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) which states that:
(1) A driver must not drive a vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen:
- is visible to the driver from the normal driving position, or
- likely to distract another driver.
If you decide to challenge the case in court, the maximum penalty is 20 penalty units, which is equivalent to $2,200.
The regulation goes on to state that the rule does not apply if:
- the driver is driving a bus and the visual display unit is, or displays, a destination sign or other bus sign, or
- the visual display unit is used as a driver’s aid and either is an integrated part of the vehicle design, or is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being used,
- the visual display unit is a mobile data terminal fitted to a police vehicle or an emergency vehicle, or
- the driver or vehicle is exempt under another law.
The rule states that a driver’s aid includes:
- closed-circuit television security cameras,
- dispatch systems,
- navigational or intelligent highway and vehicle system equipment,
- rearview screens,
- ticket-issuing machines, and
- vehicle monitoring devices.
It also states that a visual display unit is properly secured only if:
- the mounting is commercially designed and manufactured for that purpose, and
- the unit is secured in the mounting, and the mounting is affixed to the vehicle, in the manner intended by the manufacturer.
It has been reported that a number of NSW drivers have been fined in recent weeks, including one for allowing a passenger to use a laptop and another for permitting the use of FaceTime.
The drivers have taken to Facebook to warn others about the rule.
Another law: Passenger seat reclining
Another law most of us may have broken at one time or another is letting a passenger recline the seat to have a nap.
Well actually, it’s not expressly against the law to do this—although it is an offence for a passenger not to have their seatbelt properly secured, which may occur if they have their seat all the way down.
Requesting a review
If you have been unfairly issued with a penalty notice, you can request a review on the basis that:
- the notice has been issued in error, or
- there are other reasons why you should not be fined.
To initiate the review, you must make the request by the due date on the penalty notice.
You can do this online at myPenalty, using the penalty or infringement notice number as well as the date of the incident.
You’ll also need to provide some proof of identification, such as your address, date of birth or driver licence number.
Once your application has been reviewed, you will receive a written response outlining one of three possible outcomes:
- Penalty to stand
The review process has determined that you committed the offence and the penalty stands. You must pay the fine, or you can choose to go to court to fight it.
The review process has determined that you committed the offence and the fine was properly issued but you have been issued with a caution instead of the original fine and demerit points.
However, driving offences resulting in a caution will be recorded on your driving history.
The penalty notice was not issued correctly, does not properly disclose the offence, or was issued by mistake. You won’t have to pay the fine and won’t face any related demerit points.
If you disagree with the review, you can elect to take the matter to court.