The ACT government will leverage the NSW roll-out of mobile phone detection technology and deploy the cameras in Canberra by the first quarter of next year
The ACT government will leverage the NSW roll-out of mobile phone detection technology and aims to have the same cameras operating in Canberra by the first quarter of next year.
Changes to ACT legislation would be required because the cameras take photographs into the cabin front row of oncoming cars to detect drivers illegally using their mobile phones.
Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury said there are privacy and human rights issues which the government would need to assess before introducing a similar type of detection system to that used in NSW.
The NSW system uses artificial intelligence to automatically review images and detect offending drivers and to exclude images of non-offending drivers from further action.
Images that the system considers likely to contain a driver illegally using a mobile phone are then verified by an authorised officer. Images which detect illegal use are retained for a period of time to cover a potential legal appeal.
The detection cameras – which are high definition and can operate by night or day, much like speed detection equipment – began operating in NSW from December 1 last year.
Warning letters but no fines were issued to NSW offenders for the first three months of the cameras’ operation and Mr Rattenbury indicated that a similar pilot period was likely for the ACT.
From Sunday March 1 offenders in NSW will lose five points from their licence and will be automatically fined $344.
In the ACT, the same offence currently carries a minimum $480 fine and loss of three points from your licence but if the driver is using the mobile for social media or to surf the internet, the fine goes up to $588 with four points lost.
These [cameras] are measures that can be controversial, but I think the Canberra community would support these cameras, because they want to be safe on the road, and they are tired of people driving dangerously and distracted, Mr Rattenbury said.
Drivers using mobile phones and other devices while driving is extremely dangerous. Research has shown that distracted drivers, such as those who look at their mobile phones while driving, are three times more likely to be involved in a crash, he said. Drivers are continuing to use their mobile phones while driving. At 60km/h, looking at your phone for just three seconds means you are driving blind for 50 metres.
Any cameras deployed would complement existing police enforcement, which saw 1278 infringement notices issued for illegal mobile phone use on ACT roads in the 2018-19 financial year.
Mr Rattenbury said that signs would warn motorists of where the cameras, positioned on transportable trailers, were in operation.
ACT police have expressed their continual frustration with Canberra drivers’ high illegal usage of mobile phones and have said they would fully support the introduction of the detection cameras.
In an effort to curtail the issue, police have taken to using an officer on a covert motorcycle to thread through lanes of Canberra traffic and catch offenders.
Texting, calling or even looking at your phone while driving is dangerous and continues to be a significant road safety concern for the community. Put your phone down, Mr Rattenbury said.
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