Canberra L and P-platers have reacted with anger over new laws banning hands-free phone calls while drivers are behind the wheel.
The laws will come into effect from July 1, and will see a total mobile device ban for learner and provisional drivers, including using Bluetooth or speaker to interact with their phones.
Chloe Smith, 18, has had her P-plates since January last year and had been using Bluetooth to receive phone calls while driving.
She said the new laws were unfair for many drivers.
“If a person can’t handle having a hands-free device, they can’t handle passengers and shouldn’t be driving unsupervised,” Ms Smith said.
“I just think a person should be capable of talking while driving, and if they can’t, they’re not ready.”
The new ACT laws follow similar legislation already introduced in NSW and Victoria, and will apply to all L and P-plate drivers, regardless of when they received their licence.
GPS-enabled devices can still be used, provided the route is programmed before the start of a journey, with similar exceptions for phones being used to listen to music in the car.
Drivers caught under the new laws will be fined $480 and three demerit points.
As of June 2019, there are more than 10,000 learner drivers and 17,000 provisional drivers in the ACT.
MJ Watts has been on her P-plates since February, and said the laws would disadvantage drivers who weren’t familiar with driving in certain areas.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with the laws that are being put in place,” Ms Watts said.
“I think it would be really difficult to get to places I’m unfamiliar with.”
Mother-of-five Kimberley Aukino, who is also a P-plater, said the new laws were unrealistic for drivers.
“I’m always getting a call from either the doctor or the school,” she said.
“If something is happening while I’m driving and I’m on a busy road, I can’t pull over to answer the phone.”
However, not all P-plate drivers were against the government’s ban.
Canberran Kevin Poulton said young drivers would have less distractions on the road.
“Normally I put my phone in the centre console and leave it there,” he said.
“You shouldn’t be taking phone calls in the car unless it’s an emergency.”
ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury said the ban on hands-free calls aimed to make it safer on the roads for newer drivers.
“Some might express frustration at the restrictions, but there’s a clear distinction [in using your phone], and people should be surprised about how much phones are used,” Mr Rattenbury told ABC radio on Wednesday.
While questions remain as to how the new laws would be administered, ACT Policing said officers would continue to enforce road rules, and urged ACT residents not to use their phones behind the wheel.
Motoring and road safety groups have come out in support of the legislation, with the NRMA saying the ACT’s move brings the territory into line with other parts of the country.
“This is a positive outcome that will help keep some of our most vulnerable road users safe,” the NRMA’s region director Kate Lundy said.