Mobile devices and driving: What you need to know about changes to Road Traffic Act from Feb 1

It is illegal for drivers to hold any type of mobile device while driving.
It is illegal for drivers to hold any type of mobile device while driving. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As of Feb 1, it will be illegal for drivers to hold any type of mobile device while driving. Previously, only calling or texting someone on a mobile phone was barred.

On Sept 8, 2014, changes to the Road Traffic Act were passed into law and a wider range of mobile devices was added to the Act.

The changes came amid a rise in recent years in the number of summonses for using a mobile phone while driving - from 2,938 in 2012 to 3,572 in 2013. There was a slight drop of 6.1 per cent to 3,354 cases in 2014.

Here's what you need to know about the changes.


1. Mobile devices

Anyone caught holding any mobile device while driving can be found guilty of committing an offence. To be specific, mobile devices are any hand-held equipment which are designed or capable of being used for telecommunication. This means phones as well as tablets.

2. As long as you are holding it when the vehicle is moving, you can be charged

It is no longer just talking or texting that will get you in trouble. The new changes include surfing the web, visiting social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and downloading material. The law applies to holding a device while driving. It is not illegal to use a mobile device when the car is stationary. But motorists are strongly advised not to handle their device at a red light.

3. If the device is mounted

It is not illegal to use a mobile device that is mounted on a holder or dashboard.

4. Penalties

First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to six months. Repeat offenders face up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 12 months in jail.

5. What about wearables?

The amended law does not specifically mention wearable technology such as the Google Glass. But the use of such devices could be classified as inconsiderate driving, an offence which carries up to a $1,000 fine and a six-month jail term.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli commented on this during the amendment of the law in parliament on Sept 8, 2014, saying: "We will continue to monitor the situation... and study the practices of other jurisdictions as they evolve to deal with (new) types of smart devices."

In an earlier version of this story, we said that it is illegal to use and hold a mobile device while driving, including when the car is stationary at a red light. This is wrong and we are sorry for the error. This law applies only to holding a mobile device when the vehicle is moving. But motorists are strongly advised not to handle their device at a red light.