Say “Cheese” – Cameras Are Now Detecting Drivers Using Their Mobile Phones

Ah, technology — simultaneously empowering both those tasked with keeping us safe and those who commit offences. Perhaps it was inevitable then, that mobile device detection would evolve to facilitate the identification and tracking of smartphones — thus helping police and other agencies to better enforce traffic laws prohibiting drivers from using illegally mobile devices while driving. This is what you need to know.

What are Mobile Phone Detection Cameras and How Do They Work?

Mobile phone detection cameras — which can be either fixed or portable — are high definition cameras with infra-red flashes that capture images of motor vehicles’ front seats. Then, artificial intelligence is deployed to review these images and identify drivers illegally using a phone. These images are forwarded to authorised personnel who verify whether or not the image actually depicts a driver using a phone. Verified images are then sent to adjudicators, and penalty notices sent out typically within the week.

The mobile phone detection camera program commenced last December. Those “caught” by the detection system for the first three months of the program were sent warning letters. From March 1, 2020, onwards, offenders have been receiving five demerit points and a $349 fine in most zones. The fine is $464 in school zones. During double-demerit periods, offenders receive 10 demerit points. Unlike speed detecting cameras, locations of mobile phone detection cameras will not be disclosed or searchable.

What is Illegal Phone Use While Driving?

Distracted drivers were involved in over 180 crashes in NSW — resulting in 13 deaths and 245 injuries between 2012 and the beginning of 2020. As such, authorities are cracking down on the illegal use of a phone while driving. While you are driving, it is illegal for you to:

●     text or video message;

●     email;

●     use social media;

●     take photos;

●     and/or similar activities

The same prohibition applies whether you are on the open road or stopped/stationary at lights and intersections, or for traffic. Even if you have been stopped by a police officer, you may not use your phone as described above. If you need to show a digital drivers licence to the police officer, they must first ask or agree for you to do so. Learners and restricted drivers are not allowed to use mobile phones, period.

What is Legal Phone Use in a Car?

You are allowed to use your mobile phone for audio calls, playing music or other audio, or for navigation or driver’s aid/GPS, as long as the device is:

●     anchored in place – for example, on your dashboard with an accessory that securely holds your phone;

●     not blocking or affecting your ability to clearly see the road;

●     “hands free” – for example, Bluetooth enabled, voice activated or otherwise usable without you having to touch it.

There may be a few “grey areas” in the legislation — for example, when you are stopped and off the road in a carpark, drive-through, or driveway. Remember that it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and that with proper trip planning, you shouldn’t really need to use your phone illegally.

Mobile phones and devices may be a large part of our everyday lives, but we must all take care to use them responsibly.

 

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