Mobile phone use in South Australia while driving a vehicle

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We are in an ever changing world where technology and the law often collide.  At Woods & Co Lawyers we keep up to date with constantly changing traffic laws.

The use of mobile phones including texting while driving is a real concern of Government right around Australia and the world.  We all know that a momentary look at our phone is tempting.  However, we regularly see the serious and dangerous consequences that can result from a momentary loss of concentration.  In South Australia the use of mobile phones is controlled by the Australian Road Rules (ARR 300).

The driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is stationary but not parked unless the phone is only being used to make or receive calls and the phone is either secured to a commercially designed mounting affixed to the vehicle, or if not secured on a mounting the phone must not be held or touched. (If it is in a pocket or pouch attached to the body it may not be seen as being held).

Another exception applies when the phone is being used as a navigational aide in which case it must be affixed to the vehicle in a commercially designed mounting and must not be touched. 

Emergency and police vehicles are exempt.


The term ‘use’ is very wide and covers making and receiving calls. It obviously covers texting and emailing or using other communication applications. In fact, holding of the phone in the hand unless passing it to a passenger is deemed usage. The term is so wide that it covers even looking at anything on the phone or turning it on and off.

Even the receipt of a text message or email while driving could breach this road rule. However, if the email, text or other communication is received automatically and only a notification is received (rather than the phone showing the actual communication, text or email) then you may not be in breach.

In addition, a phone is not deemed to be used if it is activated only by voice (provided you don’t look at it).

texting while driving
texting while driving laws in Adelaide


Currently, if you are the holder of a Learners Permit of P1 Licence then you are not permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving, or stationary. This is a separate offence under the Road Traffic Regulations and specific to South Australia. Arguably, use is not made out if it is voice activated under the definitions, but we do not advice you to take the risk as you may still be driving without proper attention and may commit other offences.

Curiously, many people are caught quickly checking their phone while stationary at a set of red traffic lights or in a traffic queue. Unless you are parked you still commit an offence. Police in Adelaide regularly sit at traffic lights catching unsuspecting motorists.

Significant fines and demerit points apply for mobile phone usage. In addition, if you are involved in an accident then serious charges may result from your lack of attention.


Many of our clients are frustrated at receiving and expiation notice and the demerit points. It could result in significant consequences if you are involved in an accident or have accrued too many demerit points, or you are on a Learners, Provisional or Probationary Licence.

It may seem odd that you can change a radio station, touch a navigational aide in-built into a vehicle, adjust air conditioning and a do a myriad of other things without necessarily committing an offence. Nevertheless, a person must always drive with proper care and attention. Parliament in South Australia have legislated these mobile phone offences specifically to address a growing problem.

At Woods & Co Lawyers we are widely regarded by the profession and public as experts in traffic law matters. It is important to obtain legal advice from one of our professional team of lawyers in Adelaide. We advise you to do so before paying or commencing to pay any expiation fee if you are concerned as to whether you have committed a mobile phone offence.

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