Learner permit and provisional licence drivers will be banned from using any kind of mobile device when behind the wheel from 1 July, including hands-free arrangements.
Minister for Road Safety Shane Rattenbury said the new rule was the first of a range of changes based on best practice and designed to reduce injuries and deaths on ACT roads.
He said that in the ACT, it was already illegal to call, text or use social media when driving and from 1 July 2019, learners and provisional drivers also would not be allowed to use Bluetooth hands-free or speaker mode while driving.
But they will still be able to use GPS-enabled devices to help them with directions, provided that the device is not being held by the driver and is programmed before the trip starts so that it requires no interaction during travel. There is a similar exception for listening to audio such as music and podcasts.
The penalties for messaging, social media use, accessing applications and the internet will be $589 and four demerit points. If caught talking hands-free and in speaker mode, drivers will be fined $480 and lose three demerit points.
“Evidence shows that it’s not safe to use any device while driving, and any activity that distracts a driver can result in more lane deviations, slower reaction times, and the risk of not anticipating potential hazards; these risks are amplified for young drivers,” Mr Rattenbury said.
Research also showed that young drivers were more prone to distraction than older, more experienced drivers, and that drivers who looked at their mobile phones while driving were three times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Recent research conducted by the University of Canberra in August 2016 surveyed 612 young ACT drivers (aged 17-24 years) on the extent and nature of risky driving behaviours.
An estimated three in four young Canberrans surveyed said they had read one text message while driving in the past week, while more than half had sent at least one text message. Other young people surveyed reported using their mobile phones while driving in other ways, including for GPS navigation (61 per cent) and social media (21.2 per cent).
Mr Rattenbury said the ACT Government had undertaken significant public and stakeholder consultation over the last 12 months in relation to these important road safety changes, with more than 85 per cent of people surveyed supporting a total mobile ban for L and P drivers.
Over the coming months the Government would be developing and distributing a comprehensive awareness campaign to help the community understand the new requirements.
“Too many young drivers are being killed and injured on our roads. There is no one solution, which is why we are looking at a range of approaches that work together to reduce risk for new and young drivers,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“It is also important that parents, carers and families understand and recognise the value of these initiatives.
“Many young drivers do the right thing, obey the speed limit and drive safely. These measures will support them and better prepare them for a lifetime of safe driving.”