Community News

Hidden cameras cause a stir

Following a six month trial, new mobile phone detection cameras will be rolling out in NSW this year. And unlike speed cameras, there will be no warning signs to alert motorists of their presence.

The high-definition cameras use artificial intelligence to spot drivers, regardless of the weather or time of day. While the portable versions will be mounted on trailers and operate across the state.

The government said during the trial people were detected using Facebook and texting. And in one instance, a driver had their passenger steer the car while they had both hands on their phone.

Responding to key NRMA recommendations from Can’t Talk Driving report the NSW Government will be enforcing tougher penalties and new camera technology to catch people using their phones illegally.

However, the Government will introduce the cameras without warning signs and the NRMA feels this is an opportunity lost to drive home the safety message of not using your phone illegally.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said while the public supported the cameras, they also wanted to know where they will be located. “The NRMA fought for these cameras, but they must come with warning signs in the same way every other camera on our roads has,” Mr Khoury said.

“These cameras must be about getting people to put down their phones, not taking away licences.”

“We want people to change their behaviour behind the wheel – not three weeks later when they get a fine in the mail. Warning signs are a vital part of the enforcement and education mix.”

The rollout of the cameras will be completed by December, but there will be a three-month grace period for penalties. If you offend after that, the penalty for illegally operating a mobile phone while driving is $344 and five demerit points (10 during double demerit periods).

However, there will be allowances for mobile phone use in the car. These concessions include using a phone in a cradle with Bluetooth, handling a phone while passing it to a passenger, as well as using it in a drive-through service situation.

More than 16,500 people have been caught by police illegally using their mobile phone so far this year.

The NSW government said it would “progressively expand” to perform 135 million vehicle checks by 2023. With independent modelling showing that these cameras could prevent around 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years.