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NRMA Issues Warning After Driver Receives $337 Fine For Breaking Vague Road Rule

The NRMA said a number of drivers have contacted them to ask about a Sydney driver being fined because their passenger was on FaceTime next to them.

Last year, Sheree Panetta received a fine in the mail for $337 after a passenger of hers was on a video call while in the front passenger seat.

“Tell your passengers to stay off their phones while you are driving, I got fined because my passenger was on FaceTime,” she wrote on Facebook at the time.

“Honestly didn’t know that was a thing.”

Panetta's post went viral with tens of thousands of people sharing it online and expressing their shock over the fine, stating they didn't know about the road rule.

The fine received by the Sydney woman. Image: Facebook

As a result, the NRMA have said a number of their customers contacted them to seek clarity about the road rule that left the mum out of pocket.

The offence, which was listed as 'Drive vehicle with TV/VDU image likely to distract' in Panetta's fine, is an offence that is covered in NSW by Road Rule 299 (1)(a).

This road rule states:

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.

According to the NRMA, this means that it is it an offence for the phone’s 'visual display' to be 'visible to the driver'.

"This means it is an offence to merely have your phone sitting next to you if its screen is turned on," the NRMA state.

As a consequence, if a driver is found to break this road rule they can forced to pay a $344 fine and lose three demerit points, even more if it occurs in a school zone at $457 and four demerit points.

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"The regulation is written so broadly, that it even captures circumstances where your phone is locked, but happens to light up if the phone receives a notification," the NRMA said.

"As long as the phone’s visual display is visible to the driver -- you are offending regulation 299. Evidently, this gives police wide discretion -- including where a passenger's mobile phone visual display is visible to the driver."

The NRMA said there is an exception to the road rule, where if the visual display is being used as an aid to the driver for directions and it is secured to the vehicle by a mount or fixture, the driver is not seen as committing an offence.

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Many expressed their shock on social media, with a number noting that screens built into cars are just as distracting.

"Meanwhile all new cars now have complicated computer screens that you can play with to your heart's content! That makes sense!" one wrote.

Another joked that all children should be banned because they too, are distractions while driving in a car.

"Come on now, we all know what really needs to be banned from all motor vehicles when driving," wrote another.

"They have been the biggest distractions literally since the motor vehicle was invented. BAN ALL CHILDREN I say from travelling in motor vehicles."

So the next time your passenger is using their phone while you're driving, you might want to tell them to put it away.

Featured image: Facebook