If you’re one of the many adventure-loving Australians planning a road trip these holidays – and you’re also among those who’ve shifted to the convenience of a digital driver’s licence – you may be wondering if your digital version will be accepted interstate.
Digital driver’s licences – a digital version of your licence that generally sits within a government app on your smartphone – are becoming more prevalent across the country. Queensland introduced a digital option in November 2023,1 South Australia has offered them since 2017,2 while in New South Wales,3 just over three-quarters of the state’s licensed drivers – 4.6 million – have now downloaded a digital licence.4 Victoria has also announced a roll-out by 2024.5
Some states and territories have yet to adopt the technology, and definitive information on digital licence validity while travelling interstate is not always readily available.
Along with ensuring your car insurance is up to date, you might want to get to grips with the rules relating to digital driver’s licence use in Australia before you hit the road. In this article, we’ll help trouble-shoot some of the most frequently asked questions about digital driver’s licences in Australia.
Can you travel interstate with just your digital driver’s licence?
Tempted to leave your physical driver’s licence at home? The answer to whether your digital driver’s licence will be accepted interstate largely depends on where you intend to drive.
Where can you use your digital driver’s licence?
ACT Policing encourages all interstate drivers to carry their physical licence when travelling to the Australian Capital Territory. “However, a digital driver’s licence will be accepted should this be the only form of licence they have,” says an ACT Policing spokesperson.
In Western Australia, road trippers should also be able to use their digital version, according to Western Australia Police Force. “We are aware that eastern states jurisdictions do use digital driver’s licences and production of one of these is sufficient,” says a Traffic Motorcycle Group spokesperson.
In the Northern Territory, however, you’ll need to carry your physical driver’s licence. “Digital driver’s licences are only valid within the jurisdiction they are issued and cannot be verified in the Northern Territory,” says a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics.
Interstate motorists driving through Queensland will also need to carry and use physical cards, as interstate digital licences are not recognised under Queensland law, says a spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Main Roads. “This is because there is no easy way to digitally verify that the licence is valid.”
Qld digital driver’s licence
Conversely, the Queensland Government advises Queenslanders to check with local authorities when driving outside the state, to determine if digital versions are accepted.6
“We know that digital licences are not accepted everywhere. If there is any doubt, we recommend you carry your physical licence as a back-up,” the government site recommends.
NSW digital driver’s licences and SA digital driver’s licences
Both mySAGOV and Service NSW advise drivers with digital licences stored on their respective government apps to also carry their cards as a precaution when travelling interstate.7
“While a SA digital licence should be accepted throughout Australia, we recommend all people carry their physical licence as a backup,” says a spokesperson for the South Australian Government’s Department for Infrastructure and Transport.
“Many rental car companies do not accept digital driver’s licences,” adds a spokesperson for Transport for NSW.
Can you access your digital driver’s licence with no internet connection?
Worried you’ll be caught with no internet connection and required to produce your licence? If you have a digital licence for Queensland, NSW or South Australia, you should theoretically still be able to access your digital version without being online.
“The NSW digital driver licence is available offline as long as you are logged into the Service NSW app,” states the NSW Government.3 “You’ll be required to use your PIN at all times to access your digital driver licence.”
The Queensland Government offers this reassurance: “If no internet service is available when you open the app, it will use the latest version of your information stored on your device.”8
A spokesperson for the SA Government also confirms that you can continue to access your SA digital licence when offline “as a copy is stored in the mySA GOV mobile app”.
“Offline licences will not display a barcode but will show the time that the data was last synchronised with our systems,” says the Department for Infrastructure and Transport spokesperson.
VicRoads, however, recommends Victorian drivers still carry a physical licence if concerned about battery or internet coverage.5
What if your phone has a flat battery?
In Queensland8 and NSW,9 where digital driver’s licences are in operation, it’s clearly spelled out in the conditions of use that the licence holder is responsible for keeping their device charged and in working order. So that flat battery (or cracked screen) is not likely to get you off the hook if you can’t display your licence when requested by law.
Don’t be too hasty to reach for your phone while in the car though. Service NSW warns that it’s illegal to access your digital driver licence when driving, including when stationary, unless you’re asked to do so by a police officer.9
What are the penalties for driving without your licence?
A steep fine can dampen any holiday buzz. Here’s how the penalty for failing to produce a valid driver’s licence on request differs across the country:
- In Queensland, the fine is $309 (you may be given 48 hours to present your licence at a police station).10
- In NSW, the fine is $117.11
- In the ACT, the fine is $213.12
- In Victoria, the fine is $192 (for failure to produce licence within 7 days).13
- In SA, the fine is $227.14
- In WA, the fine is $150.15
- In the NT, the fine is $100.16
- In Tasmania, the fine is $97.50.17
Data collated in December 2023 and by its nature will change over time; check relevant Government websites for updates if this information is important to you.
1 Source: ABC News – Digital driver’s licences go statewide in Queensland, 2023
2 Source: ABC News – South Australia’s digital drivers’ licences to reduce possibility of forgery, 2017
3 Source: NSW Government – Licence holders and the NSW Digital Driver Licence
4 Source: NSW Government – Digital licences – statistics, 22 November 2023
5 Source: Vic Government – Digital Driver Licence
6 Source: Qld Government – About the Digital Licence app
7 Source: ABC News– Canberrans still years away from having digital driver’s licences, 2022
8 Source: Qld Government – Using your Digital Licence app
9 Source: NSW Government – NSW Digital Driver Licence (DDL) – Terms and Conditions
10 Information provided by a spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, November 2023.
11 Source: NSW Government – Demerit points: General driving offences
12 Source: ACT Government – Road Transport (Offences)
13 Source: Vic Government – Fines and Fees
14 Source: SA Police – Expiable Offences & Fees – Traffic, excludes Victims of Crime Levy of $99 (aged 18 or older) or $20 (aged under 18), as of September 2023.
15 Information provided by a spokesperson for Western Australia Police Force, November 2023.
16 Source: NT Government – Traffic offences fines and demerit points
17 Source: Tas Government – Traffic Offences – Full List