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Mobile Phone Fines Across the World

Mobile phone fines

Across the globe, mobile phone fines are as ubiquitous as the devices themselves, with governments seeking to minimise the dangers posed by scrolling, texting, searching and chatting while driving.1

While it’s true Australia has some tough penalties targeting those caught using a phone illegally while driving, in some countries, ​using your phone behind the wheel could see your driver’s licence suspended or even land you behind bars.

So, what’s the science that underpins the various levels of phone-related driving offences being targeted by governments across the globe?

The link between mobile phones and dangerous driving

Research shows that many of us struggle to leave our phones alone when behind the wheel. In a 2019 Transport Accident Commission survey of more than 1,700 Victorians, one-third of licence holders aged 18 to 60 admitted to using a phone illegally while driving.2 That same year, the Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) found that 42% of surveyed drivers had texted, browsed the internet or emailed using a handheld mobile phone while driving a moving vehicle.1

“These are sobering figures when you consider that mobile phone distraction has been found to lead to slower reaction times, less controlled or aggressive braking, riskier decision-making and delayed responses to traffic light changes,” says Fety Rahmillah, a CARRS-Q researcher probing the link between our nomophobia (phone separation anxiety)3 and driver distraction.1

“Unfortunately, the average driver tends to underestimate these potentially dangerous impacts on their own driving; whether it’s from having overconfidence in their multitasking ability, or because they haven’t yet had personal experience of a near-miss crash due to phone use distraction while driving,” says Rahmillah.

That near miss (or worse) could be just a matter of time if you’re a repeat offender. According to CARRS-Q, you increase your crash risk by a factor of 3.6 when using a handheld phone while driving.1 The evidence seems clear, but the road rules and penalties designed to curb this modern-day phenomenon vary widely.

Countries with the steepest mobile phone fines 

Morocco is up there as one of the most expensive places on the planet to get caught using your phone behind the wheel. As of 2021, the penalty for using a mobile phone while driving on Moroccan roads (unless you have a hands-free kit) could be as high as DH8,000 (approximately A$1,233), according to the International Drivers Association.4

Oman follows close behind. In March 2021, the country’s Public Prosecution decreed that using a handheld phone or any other electronic device while driving was an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 days ─ and a fine extending to OMR300 (approximately A$1,222).5

Other countries tough on mobile phone use while driving

Japan revised its traffic control laws in 2019 so that the penalty for a first-time offence tripled in some cases and repeat offenders can now face fines of up to ¥100,000 (approximately A$1,063).6

In 2022, the €200 (approximately A$337) penalty for mobile phone use while driving in Spain was extended to include any driver caught touching any device, even when that device was secured by a hands-free kit.7

Meanwhile, reports of proposed changes to Italy’s Highway Code that would approximately quadruple mobile phone fines suggest this famous tourist hotspot could potentially soon boast the most expensive mobile phone penalty anywhere in the world: €1,697 (approximately A$2,857).8

In Greece, talking on a mobile phone without a hands-free kit doesn’t just have the potential to cost you €100 (approximately A$168). You could also lose your licence for 60 days.9

Caught driving with a handheld mobile for a third time in Bermuda within two years of a first offence? That could see you hit with a six-month licence suspension (and/or a BD$1,000 fine – approximately A$1,567) under the country’s ​Traffic Offences (Penalties) Act 1976.10 In a plot twist, anyone who has received or made a call to the driver could also find themselves charged.11

Countries where phone time could mean jail time

Along with Oman, where an illegal phone call on the go could mean a 10-day prison stay,5 here are some other countries where driving with a mobile phone could potentially put you in prison.

In Trinidad and Tobago, drivers caught using handheld mobile devices could be liable for a first-time fine of TT$1,000 (approximately A$232), or imprisonment for three months,12 under the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Mobile Devices) Regulations 2010.13 This law also applies if you use your phone while supervising a driver with a provisional permit.

In India, where both handheld and hands-free phones are widely prohibited behind the wheel, up to a year behind bars is a possibility, with illegal mobile phone use being designated as dangerous driving.14

Unusual mobile phone legislation around the world

While we can probably all agree that phone-related distracted driving is a huge problem just about anywhere there are roads, the scope of legislation to address it can vary widely. Take the United States, for example.

In Ohio, ​new distracted driving laws were introduced in January 2023, prohibiting texting while driving or typing an address into a GPS. Somewhat bafflingly though, motorists are allowed to swipe their phone once to answer a call, and can talk on the phone while holding it to their ear.15 First-time offending drivers who are hit with a fine of US$150 (approximately A$235) and two demerit points could avoid these penalties by completing a distracted driving course.16

Over in Florida, wearing a headset or headphones is banned, but in a quirky loophole, you can take a hands-free phone call in one ear using a headset that “allows surrounding sounds to be heard with the other ear”.17 In the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C., school bus drivers are prohibited from phone use while operating a moving school bus that is carrying passengers, except to make an emergency call.18

Is it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in Australia?

In short, yes it is, and we explore that further below. But before we go into the specifics, it’s worth taking a look at detection. Not only do Australian motorists and cyclists face some of the world’s most onerous mobile phone fines, they’re also up against world-leading advanced detection technology.

New South Wales launched world-first mobile phone detection technology in late 2019.19 Queensland followed suit, with smart cameras catching just under 120,000 drivers using their phones illegally in the 12 months after they were launched in the state in 2021.20

“Using a mobile phone while driving is as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.07 to 0.10,” said Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey at the time.

“By law, you must not have your phone in your hand or resting on any part of your body, including your lap while driving, regardless of whether the phone is on or in use.”

What’s the cost of getting caught?

Following Australia’s implementation of AI cameras, similar technology started showing up abroad – such as in the UK.21

Meanwhile, after an extensive testing program in North Carolina, Australia’s patented enforcement cameras are also being rolled out for the first time in the United States.22

But what’s the price of doing the wrong thing back home? Here’s the breakdown of current mobile phone fines and penalties across Australia.

Mobile phone fines

Mobile phone fines in Qld

  • Using a mobile phone while driving ─ $1,161 fine and 4 demerit points23
  • Repeat mobile phone offence within 12 months of the first offence ─ $1,161 fine and 8 demerit points23

Find more mobile phone road rules in Qld here.23

Mobile phone fines in NSW

  • Using a mobile phone while driving ─ $362 fine and 5 demerit points24
  • Using a mobile phone while driving in school zone ─ $481 fine and 5 demerit points24

Find more mobile phone road rules in NSW here.24

Mobile phone fines in the ACT

  • Using handheld device to make or receive calls while driving ─ $498 fine and 3 demerit points25
  • Using handheld device to access internet, social networking, messaging or apps ─ $612 fine and 4 demerit points25

Find more mobile phone road rules in the ACT here.25

Mobile phone fines in Vic

  • Using a mobile phone while driving ─ $555 fine and 4 demerit points26

Find more mobile phone road rules in Vic here.27

Mobile phone fines in SA

  • Using a mobile phone while driving ─ $540 fine and 3 demerit points28

Find more mobile phone road rules in South Australia here.29

Mobile phone fines in the NT

  • Using handheld mobile phone or any video display unit while driving ─ $500 fine30

Find more mobile phone road rules in the NT here.30

Mobile phone fines in WA

  • Touching or holding a mobile phone while not in a cradle to make, receive or end a voice call ─ $500 fine and 3 demerit points31
  • Creating, sending, or looking at a text, email, social media, photo, video or similar ─ $1,000 fine and 4 demerit points31

Find more mobile phone road rules in WA here.31

Mobile phone fines in Tas

  • Driving using a mobile phone (when moving or stationary, but not parked) except to make or receive a call from a phone secured in mounting or not required to be touched ─ $390 and 3 demerit points32

Find more mobile phone road rules in Tas here.32

Breaking the pattern of mobile phone use while driving

So, those are the penalties. But do harsher fines translate to fewer phone-related crashes? There’s scant evidence yet, says Rahmillah. Perhaps the answer lies within our phones themselves, she suggests.
“The use of anti-distraction apps such as ‘Do not disturb while driving’ and ‘Android Auto’ have been found to reduce phone use while driving by up to 20% by blocking notifications, calls and texts when a vehicle is in motion,” Rahmillah says.33

Remember, protecting lives by putting away your phone while driving also helps protect your driving record, giving you a better chance to save on your car insurance premium. Consider checking out Youi’s car insurance options to see if there’s a policy that suits your needs.

Note: Information in this article is relevant as of September 2023 and by its nature will change over time. Check relevant Government websites for updates if this information is important to you.



1 Source: Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) – Mobile phone use & distraction, August 2020
2 Source: Transport Accident Commission – New campaign highlights the dangers of distracted driving, 2019
3 Source: Monash University – Nomophobia – fear of being without your phone? It’s a phobia afflicting most Australians, January 2021
4 Source: International Drivers Association – Morocco Driving Guide, July 2021
5 Source: Arabian Daily – OMR 300 Fine, 10 days Jail When Using Mobile phone while driving in Oman, March 2021
6 Source: Kyodo News – Tougher Japan penalties for smartphone use while driving take effect, December 2019
7 Source: Murcia Today – DGT increases penalty for using hands-free mobile phone kits in Spain, January 2022
8 Source: Trans.INFO – This country raises the fine for using a phone while driving by four times. Drivers may also lose their licence, January 2020
9 Source: Athens News – Draconian fines for talking on a cell phone while driving, April 2022
10 Source: Bermuda Government – Traffic Offences (Penalties) Act 1976 
11 Source: The Royal Gazette – Handhelds on our road: the deterrent is in law - now for enforcement!, October 2022 
12 Source: Aurora Chambers Legal Practice – What is the law on using your mobile phone while driving in Trinidad and Tobago?, 2020
13 Source: Trinidad and Tobago Government – The Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Mobile Devices) Regulations, 2010
14 Source: The Times of India – Use of mobile phones permitted only for navigation while driving vehicles, September 2020
15 Source: Ohio Public Safety – BMV distracted driving video
16 Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety – Phones Down. It's the Law.
17 Source: Casetext – Florida Statute 316.304
18 Source: Council of the District of Columbia – Code of the District of Columbia
19 Source: The Guardian – World-first mobile phone detection cameras rolled out in Australia
20 Source: Qld Government – 170k Queenslanders caught in first year of phone and seatbelt cameras, December 2019
21 Source: Devon Live – New cameras to be trialled in Devon and Cornwall, October 2022
22 Source: Business News Australia – Acusensus cracks US market with North Carolina first to use its mobile phone detection AI technology, June 2023
23 Source: Qld Government – Driving and mobile phones 
24 Source: NSW Government – Mobile phones
25 Source: ACT Government – Mobile distraction
26 Source: Vic Roads – Penalties
27 Source: Vic Roads – Mobile phones, technology & driving
28 Source: SA Government – Offences and penalties
29 Source: SA Government – Department for Infrastructure and Transport
30 Source: NT Government – Mobile phones and VDU penalties
31 Source: WA Government – Mobile phones and distractions
32 Source: Tas Government – Penalties and infringements
33 Source: Science Direct – Accident Analysis & Prevention Volume 137, March 2020