Stricter standards for using mobile phones while driving in detail

Following the adoption of the 32nd amendment to the KFG (Austrian Vehicles Act), a strengthened ban on the use of mobile phones behind the wheel is now in force. The information below gives a summary of when you are, and are not, allowed to use a mobile phone during your journey.

Making phone calls while the vehicle is moving

Phone calls can only be made when the vehicle is moving using a hands-free kit. For legal purposes, 'making a phone call' covers the phone call itself,as well as all the activities required to initiate and finish the call. This means that a hands-free kit must be used when receivingor actively making a call if the vehicle is moving. If a phone call is made while the vehicle is in motion using a hands-free kit, there is no requirement to secure the mobile phone itself inside the vehicle.

Making or receiving a phone call while driving is punishable by a 50 euro fixed penalty unless a hands-free kit is used. If you refuse to pay the fine, formal charges will be issued and the relevant authority will have the power to impose a fine of up to 72 euros. If this fine is not paid, it can impose a custodial sentence of up to 24 hours.

Hands-free kits

Hands-free kits are defined as accessories for mobile phones that allow drivers to make telephone calls while driving by permitting the driver to operate the phone without using either hand. Hands-free kits must meet the requirements set out in the product safety regulations applicable to hands-free kits. In principle, both fixed and mobile hands-free kits are permitted. However, the two types of kits are subject to differing requirements.

Fixed hands-free kits must include an attachment allowing them to be used to secure mobile telephones within the cabin. This attachment must be designed such that, once it has been installed in the vehicle, the driver can use all the main functions of the mobile telephone with one hand while driving, without having to adjust their body position. The microphone and headphones/headset must be set up such that the driver does not have to adjust their body position significantly when making calls from behind the wheel. Moreover, the driver's field of vision and movements must not be restricted by any part of the kit, especially cables. The microphone must also be positioned such that using it does not distract the driver from observing the road ahead of them.

Mobile hands-free kits must be connected by a cable of sufficient length (for headphones) or wirelessly (for a headset) to the mobile phone in such a way that any cable does not run through the driver's field of vision. It must be possible to set up the microphone in such a way that the driver can speak into the telephone without difficulty, they do not need to adjust their body position significantly in order to do so and their field of vision and movements are not impaired, in particular by cables. In addition, the microphone must also be positioned such that using it will not distract the driver from observing the road ahead of them. The driver must be able to use all the main functions of the mobile telephone with one hand while driving, without having to adjust their body position.

Making and receiving calls over speakerphone

If the mobile phone is being used exclusively to make and receive calls, or to operate speech recognition software, such as Apple's 'Siri',  the speakerphone function can be used as an auxiliary hands-free kit. However, the driver's gaze must not be distracted from the road ahead at any time. In order to prevent any problems if you are stopped by the police, it is recommended to put your phone in a cradle as part of a fixed hands-free kit. If you are using your mobile phone as a satellite navigation system, it must be secured in the cabin.

Holding your phone between your head and your shoulder

It is illegal, to cradle your mobile phone between your head and your shoulder in order to use it without a hands-free kit.

Making calls using voice commands

Provided you are using a hands-free kit, you can use your mobile phone to make calls using voice commands.

Using your mobile phone as a satellite navigation system

You can use your mobile telephone as a satellite navigation system, provided that it is secured in the cabin. However, entering an address into the navigation system while driving is not allowed, because this means looking at the keyboard and the display, which distracts your attention from the road ahead. If you need to enter an address, you must do so before you set off or stop the vehicle before doing so.

Using your mobile phone for text messages, Facebook, playing music, etc.

SMS/e-mail/social networks (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc.)

While the vehicle is moving, you are only allowed to use your mobile phone to make or receive calls or as a satellite navigation system (if it is secured within the vehicle). This means that writing and receiving text messages, e-mails or social media messages while driving is explicitly forbidden, as is surfing the Internet. Engaging in any of these activities while driving is an offence.

Using your mobile telephone to play music

There is nothing stopping you from listening to music while driving and/or using your mobile phone to play music in your car. However, you must not select individual tracks while driving, because searching through your music and selecting it means operating the display, which distracts your attention from the road ahead.

Connecting the mobile phone to charge it

You must not plug your mobile phone in to charge it while the vehicle is moving. Again, this is because of the way you have to handle your phone in order to connect it. Even if you use a hands-free kit, you will probably still have to look at where the plug and socket are in order to connect your phone, which itself usually requires both hands.

Storing a number

Storing a phone number in your phone while driving is not permitted, because it does not count as making a phone call and forces you to handle your phone in a way that might distract you. Storing a number in your phone is not allowed even if you are using a hands-free device.

Penalties

Using your mobile phone illegally while driving is punishable by a fixed penalty (Organmandat) of 50 Euro. If you refuse to pay the fine, you will be formally charged, and the relevant authority will be able to impose a fine of up to 72 Euro. If this fine is not paid, it can impose a custodial sentence of up to 24 hours.

Specific situations on the road (red lights, stop signs, etc.)

Red lights

If you are stopped at a red light, you can use your mobile phone without a hands-free kit, and are also free to use your phone in any other way.

Stop signs

If you are stopped at a stop sign, you  must not use your phone without a hands-free kit. According to rulings by Austria's Supreme Administrative Court, if you are stopped at a stop sign, or stopped for any other traffic-related reason, you must be prepared to drive on as soon as the traffic conditions allow. In these situations, you are considered to be in "flowing traffic", even if you are stationary.

Traffic jams

Whether you can use your mobile phone without a hands-free kit when stuck in traffic depends on the road conditions. If the traffic jam is so bad that you cannot move at all, there is nothing to stop you using your mobile phone in any way whatsoever without a hands-free device. However, if you are in "stop-start" traffic, you must not use your mobile phone without the hands-free kit, or use it in any other way that is not permitted while driving.

Idling/stationary traffic

Provided that the vehicle is not moving, (for example if the vehicle is parked in a car park with its engine running), you can make and receive calls without using the hands-free kit. You can also use any of the other functions of your mobile phone in this situation, because you are deemed to be in 'stationary traffic'.

Traffic jam/speed check alerts on your phone

In principle, smartphone apps designed to retrieve traffic information, such as traffic jam, speed check, fuel price or parking space alerts must not be operated while driving. The only exception to this general rule applies if the app works in the same way as a satellite navigation system, in which case it can be used provided the phone is secured in the cabin. You must stop the vehicle before entering addresses, conducting searches, etc.

Picking your phone up off the floor of the cabin

If your mobile phone falls onto the floor of the cabin while you are driving, you may pick it up, provided that  you keep one hand on the steering wheel at all times and your gaze remains fixed on the road ahead at all times.

Further links

Mobile phone ban (→ BMK)German text

Legal basis

§ 102 para 3 Kraftfahrgesetz (KFG)

Certified translation
Last update: 1 January 2022

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