Is it illegal to use a UHF radio while driving?

ByIsaac BoberJanuary 16, 2020
Is it illegal to use a UHF radio while driving?

It’s illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, we all know that, but there seems to be some confusion around whether it’s also illegal to use a UHF while driving.

There’s no doubt that distracted driving is dangerous. And that’s whether you’re holding your mobile phone, eating breakfast, trying to discipline your kids, get dressed or do all of these things at once while driving. Pretty sure we’ve all seen people doing this sort of stuff.

Let’s stay with distracted driving for a moment. A local study in 2018 called the Australian Naturalistic Driving Study which studied drivers in NSW and Victoria revealed that 36 percent of distractions were simple things like adjusting seatbelts and took less than five seconds. Interacting with phones made up 3.5 percent of distractions but drivers were distracted for up to 94 seconds while using phones.

Mobile phone use while driving has become a major target of law enforcement agencies recently with the use of a phone (holding a phone) while driving attracting heavy fines and demerit points across the country. Indeed, in NSW, there’s been a state-wide rollout of mobile phone use detection cameras. But, if Unsealed 4X4’s anecdotal evidence is anything to go by it seems that drivers are being caught and contacted while holding everything from a brush to a drink bottle and UHF radios. But, as is always the case with these things the devil is in the detail. And we’ll get into that shortly.

It’s illegal to hold and use a mobile phone while driving

In NSW, and in other jurisdictions, it’s illegal to hold or touch a mobile phone while driving. The NSW legislation that defines this is Rule 300 and it says:

“Use of mobile phones by drivers (except holders of learner or provisional P1 licences)

(1)  The driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, unless:

(a)  the phone is being used to make or receive a phone call (other than a text message, video message, email or similar communication) or to perform an audio playing function and the body of the phone:

(i)  is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being so used, or

(ii)  is not secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle and is not being held by the driver, and the use of the phone does not require the driver, at any time while using it, to press anything on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone, or

(b)  the phone is functioning as a visual display unit that is being used as a driver’s aid and the phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle, or

(c)  the vehicle is an emergency vehicle or a police vehicle, or

(d)  the driver is exempt from this rule under another law of this jurisdiction.

Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.”

So, the only way a mobile phone can be used in a vehicle is if it’s properly secured in a cradle (and even then you’re limited to what functions you can use) or being used via voice control. The latter, meaning, being connected to your vehicle by either Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and using the voice control function to make and receive phone calls or control mapping and audio features, or in a pouch or in your pocket. If it’s in a cradle it can be touched to make phone calls or use audio controls only.

It’s not illegal to use a UHF or CB radio while driving

You can’t physically hold and use your mobile phone while driving and because the new cameras being used to detect mobile phone use while driving (in NSW for now only but it won’t be long until they’re rolled out across the country) can’t yet distinguish between a phone and something else you’re holding, we’ve heard of fourby owners being pinged for UHF and CB radio use while driving. And people are becoming concerned.

They needn’t be, the laws around this stuff are pretty clear cut and that is that you can use a UHF or CB radio while driving… as long as you’re still considered to be in proper control of your vehicle. That means, if a police officer pulls you over for erratic driving and spotted you using your UHF or CB radio and decides that is the culprit then you can be fined for not being in proper control of a motor vehicle. But, the act of using the UHF or CB radio itself isn’t a bookable offence.

Indeed, a whip around the States and Territories shows that all except for the Northern Territory state: “mobile phone does not include a CB radio or any other two-way radio”. The NT regulations make no reference to a CB radio or UHF. The below lists either links to legislation or police information pages explaining the laws and the fines:

NSW: http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/…/div1/rule.300

QLD: https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/road-safety/mobile-phones

VIC: https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/driver-safety/mobile-phones-and-driving

SA: https://www.dpti.sa.gov.au/towardszerotogether/Safer_behaviours/inattention/mobile_phone_use

ACT: https://police.act.gov.au/road-safety/safe-driving/driver-distraction

WA: https://www.rsc.wa.gov.au/Rules-Penalties/Browse/Mobile-Phones

TAS: https://www.police.tas.gov.au/what-we-do/traffic-policing/traffic-tuesday/21-mobile-phones/

NT: https://roadsafety.nt.gov.au/campaigns/2019-nt-road-rule-changes/use-of-mobile-phones

One rule for them… yes, actually there is

Stroll around on Facebook and you’ll often come across photos of police officers using their mobile phones while driving with the caption: one rule for them… and that’s right, there is one rule for emergency services workers and the rest of us when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving. Here’s what the rules say: “Under the Australian Road Rules Sec 300 1 (b), the driver of an emergency or police vehicle is permitted to use a mobile phone while driving. Mobile phones are another form of communication police use for operational purposes”. And here’s a link to NSW legislation: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/nsw/consol_reg/rr2014104/s305.html That said, police officers aren’t allowed to text and drive or even text when stationary in traffic and there have been incidents where police officers have been fined for such phone use.