High-tech traffic cameras in Australia are being used to covertly issue tickets to drivers using their cellphones while driving, according to News Corp Australia.
Why is this happening?
Using mobile devices while driving is unlawful in Australia, and distracted drivers are a leading cause of fatal crashes in the country, according to the report.
The technology, touted as a "world first," detected 272 offenders during a five-hour test on just one lane of the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne, Victoria, last year, the Herald Sun reported.
The report goes on to explain that drivers were dinged even if they touched their phone while it rested in a holder.
"The trial revealed that 7.1 percent of the drivers observed infringed phone use laws. And 65.8 percent of those offenses related to motorists actively using their phone by holding it or touching it in a cradle," according to the report.
A New South Wales Police spokesman told news.com.au that officers currently “use a variety of methods to detect drivers using their phones while driving”.
“Line-of-site, by trained officers is the primary method of detection, however, long-ranged cameras have been used with success, and helmet cameras in motorcycle police continue to be used,” the spokesman told the outlet.
But the traditional methods could soon be replaced by stationary cameras that automatically issue “infringement notices” to drivers, the report stated.
NSW Police Highway Patrol boss, Assistant Commissioner Mick Corboy, told the media that it’s part of “emerging technologies” that law enforcement leaders have at their disposal.
“So the way we are going to defeat this is by video evidence, by photographic evidence and we are looking at everything possible around the world at the moment and we think we’ll get something in place fairly quickly,” Corboy said.
His comments were made in response to NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey, who this week called for “practical, technology-based solutions to address the problem” of mobile phone use in cars, according to the news report.
“Developing this technology would be a world-first and is one of the priorities of our Road Safety Plan 2021 that we announced,” Pavey said.
The so-called Road Safety Plan 2021 outlines how to implement legislative changes that allow cameras to enforce mobile phone use offenses.
What are the punishments?
People caught using their cellphones while driving face heavy fines. Drivers in North South Wales caught using a mobile phone can be fined $330. In the Australian Capital Territory, fines are as high as $528.
Drivers are encouraged to pull over to the side of the road — in a place where it’s legal to stop — to make or receive phone calls.
“There is no requirement to turn off the engine,” a police spokesman told news.com.au. “Although the rule that relates to mobile telephones does not say that the vehicle must be in an area where it is legal to park, other Australian Road Rules apply. To put that into context, it is not legal to park at a set of traffic lights, therefore it is unlawful to use a hand-held phone while stationary at those lights.”
NSW Police last year issued fines to 42,000 drivers caught using their mobile phones, news.com.au reported. Nationwide, 1,300 lives were lost on roads in Australia, a figure that represents an increase of nearly 8 percent on the previous year (1,205).