Passenger Facetiming, Driver Fined

Many of our readers may have seen social media reports of the driver fined for her passenger facetiming while the car was being driven. Yes, you read it correctly, the driver (who was not using the phone) was fined for the conduct of her passenger who was facetiming.

The NSW road rules are based on the Australian Road Rules and regulate those of us who use the roads (and road related areas) regardless of how we are using the roads. There are, for example, many provisions concerning drivers (of motor vehicles, bicycles and horses) but the road rules also contain plenty of provisions regulating pedestrian behaviour and a few provisions for passengers (such as wearing a seat belt [rule 265] and not interfering with the driver’s control of the vehicle or view of the road [272]).

The actual NSW road rule concerning the facetime incident is set out below:

299   Television receivers and visual display units in vehicles

(1)  A driver must not drive a vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen:

(a)  is visible to the driver from the normal driving position, or

(b)  is likely to distract another driver.

The road rules have had to adapt to changes in technology and the way we drive and interact with motor vehicles.  Rule 299 is all about minimising the possible distraction of the driver of the car and the driver of any other car nearby (e.g. someone might hold a phone screen or device up to the window as another car overtakes with an image sufficiently shocking to distract that driver) and is clearly designed to save lives and minimise the number of motor vehicle accidents (remember the young driver killed in April this year while her passengers were allegedly snap-chatting?).

Much of the social media commentary about this rule has been levelled at other in-car distractions (the screaming kids in the back seats) or the screens in our cars that form part of our cars and the ability for that to be as much of a distraction to the driver as a device held by a passenger. It is worth considering that a motor vehicle is a complex piece of machinery which has been described by the courts as a ‘lethal weapon’. Keeping control of our vehicles and our eyes on the road when driving is paramount and the ultimate responsibility for safe driving on our roads likes with the driver.

Written by Belinda Cassidy

Belinda Cassidy holds the position of Special Counsel at Stacks Goudkamp. She had previously held the position of Principal Claims Assessor at the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) for 18 years, and currently holds an appointment as a Claims Assessor under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act.