17 Oct 2023
Digital driver licences – the lowdown

Digital driver licences – the lowdown

  • Digital driver licences are popular in South Australia and New South Wales, and are set to launch in Victoria and Queensland
  • Digital driver licences can be used in place of your physical licence
  • Having a digital licence on your phone doesn’t mean you can use your phone while driving

In 2023, there’s an estimated 22.7 million smartphone users in Australia.1 So, the popularity of digital licences should come as no surprise, especially with use of digital wallets becoming the norm.

The launch of digital driver licences in Australia has been staggered over recent years, with South Australian drivers being the first to be offered a digital version of their licence through the mySAGov app,2 while residents of NSW have been able to use a digital licence since late 2019.

In Victoria3 and Queensland,4 residents in selected locations have been invited to trial the new digital driver licences ahead of the full launch across those states.

Popularity of digital driver licences in Australia

NSW Government figures show 4.5 million people – almost 75 per cent of drivers – are now using the digital licence5 via the Service NSW app.

A digital licence doesn’t completely replace your physical licence. If your screen is cracked and obstructs the digital licence, or your phone battery runs out, you may need to produce the physical version.

While your digital licence should be accepted throughout Australia, Service NSW and mySAGOV recommends people carry their physical licence as a backup when travelling interstate and overseas.

How to get your NSW digital driver licence

  1. Create a MyServiceNSW account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Link your MyServiceNSW account to Roads.
  3. Download the Service NSW app and log in. The app will walk you through the steps to access your digital driver licence.

How to get your SA digital driver licence

  1. Create a mySAGOV account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Download the mySAGOV app.
  3. Your current licence should automatically be added.

Smartphones and digital licences on the road

While having your driver licence on your smartphone may be convenient, it doesn’t give you permission to use your phone when you’re driving. It’s important to abide by laws around using your smartphone when driving.

'Heavy fines: Loss of licence' speed camera sign

Rules on using digital licences and phones in cars in NSW6

  • If you’re a full licence holder, you can use your phone when driving for making and receiving audio calls, playing music or for navigation if it’s secured in a cradle fixed to your car, or if it can be used without touching, i.e. connected to your car’s hands-free software.
  • It’s illegal to hold or touch a mobile phone when driving.
  • All other uses of a mobile phone are prohibited unless parked, out of the line of traffic.
  • If you’re pulled over by NSW police, it’s illegal to touch your phone, including to access your digital driver licence, before a police officer instructs you to.
  • Learner, P1 and P2 drivers and riders are not allowed to use their phone at all while driving or riding. This includes playing music, using GPS and making calls.
  • As of June 2023, the fine for illegal mobile phone use while driving is $362 ($481 in a school zone) and five demerit points. (Remember, demerit points can affect the price of your car insurance).7
  • Learner and P1 licence holders will exceed their demerit point threshold and lose their licence if caught illegally using their mobile phone.

Transport for NSW has a full overview of the rules governing mobile phone and digital licences in vehicles on its website.

Rules in South Australia8

  • If the phone is fixed in a mounting, you can touch it to make and receive calls. You can’t touch the phone if it’s not secured.
  • You can’t use your phone to create, send or look at a text message or video message – or access your digital licence – while driving.
  • You can use the phone to make or receive phone calls if the phone is secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle or is remotely operated.
  • Learners and P1 licence drivers are banned from using any mobile phone function while driving.
  • Drivers found using their phone illegally will receive a fine and three demerit points.9

The Department for Infrastructure and Transport has a full rundown of all laws in South Australia concerning the use of mobile phones when driving.

Rules on mobile phone use when driving in Queensland10

  • It’s illegal to hold a mobile phone in your hand or have it resting on any part of your body when driving.
  • Learner and P1 drivers under 25 must not use hands-free, wireless headsets or a phone’s loudspeaker function.
  • Open and P2 licence holders are allowed to use their phones hands-free while driving – if, for example, the phone is in a cradle attached to the vehicle. Hands-free uses can include accepting a call, using navigation apps, skipping a song, and accepting or ending a trip as a rideshare driver.
  • For open and P2 licence holders, phones can be controlled by voice only if in a pocket or pouch.
  • You can be fined $1,078 and receive four demerit points for using a mobile phone illegally while driving.11 This includes when you’re stopped at traffic lights or stopped in traffic.

Rules on mobile phone use when driving in Victoria12

  • Mobile phones must be either in a mounted cradle or used via Bluetooth.
  • You must not enter information, text, numbers, or symbols, scroll on the device, write or read messages or emails, view websites, watch movies, TV, video games or other moving images, view social media, view photographs or make video calls, except when parked.
  • If you have a full licence, you can touch your mounted phone for initiating, accepting, or rejecting calls, playing or streaming audio, adjusting volume levels, or using a navigation function.
  • L and P platers cannot use a mobile phone in any way.
  • The fine for the illegal use of a mobile phone is $555, plus four demerit points.13

Digital driver licences in other states

As yet, digital licences aren’t available to residents of any other states or territories in Australia. But, given the way they’re working in other states, it’s likely governments in WA, Northern Territory and Tasmania will look at introducing digital driver licences in the future.

Before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got the right car insurance or motorcycle insurance for your needs.

Information correct, as of June 2023.

1 https://www.statista.com/statistics/467753/forecast-of-smartphone-users-in-australia/
2 https://www.drive.com.au/news/sa-driver-licences-going-digital-from-october/
3 https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/licences/digital-driver-licence
4 https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/projects/digital-licence/app-trial
5 https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/performance-dashboard/digital-licences-statistics
6 https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/topics-tips/mobile-phones
7 https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/topics-tips/mobile-phones
8 https://www.mylicence.sa.gov.au/roadrules/the-drivers-handbook/mobile_phones_while_driving
9 https://www.dit.sa.gov.au/towardszerotogether/Safer_behaviours/inattention/mobile_phone_use
10 https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/road-safety/mobile-phones
11 https://streetsmarts.initiatives.qld.gov.au/driver-distraction/get-the-facts/
12 https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/new-vic-road-rules-2023
13 https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/new-vic-road-rules-2023/penalties#:~:text=Illegal%20use%20of%20a%20mobile,be%20as%20much%20as%20%241%2C849

This advice is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. You must decide whether or not it is appropriate, in light of your own circumstances, to act on this advice. To decide if QBE’s products are right for you, please ensure you obtain and consider the Policy Wording or Product Disclosure Statements and Target Market Determinations, available online at QBE.com/au. Insurance issued and underwritten by QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited (ABN 78 003 191 035, AFSL 239545).

Related articles

Understanding car insurance: CTP, comprehensive and third party car cover explained

25 Oct 2023

Not sure what car insurance you need? Learn the difference between CTP green slip, comprehensive car insurance and third party property damage car insurance.

Read article

Digital driver licences – the lowdown

17 Oct 2023

Digital driver licences are increasing in popularity. But what impact do they have on mobile phone usage while driving?

Read article

Car insurance claims: who should you contact after an accident?

06 Oct 2023

Who do you contact if you’ve been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault? It’s good to know who to turn to so you can get back on the road.

Read article
Read further articles

Interested in QBE car insurance?