In a world-first initiative, 45 mobile phone detection cameras will roll out across NSW this December to crack down on illegal mobile phone use while driving.
The $88 million program includes the use of high-res cameras and artificial intelligence to detect mobile phone users, running day and night in all weather conditions. Drivers caught within the first 3 months of the rollout will receive a warning letter, and anyone spotted with a phone in hand after 3 months will face a $344 fine ($457 in a school zone) and 5 demerit points for their first offence.
The program aims to cut down on illegal mobile phone usage using the element of surprise. Some of the cameras will be mounted on trailers and moved around the state’s road network so drivers won’t know when and where to expect them.
“Unfortunately, some people haven’t received the message and think they can continue to put the safety of themselves, their passengers and the community at risk without consequence,” said Minister for Roads Andrew Constance.
If you think a quick glance at your phone won’t do any harm, consider this: at 60 km/h, taking your eyes off the road for 2 seconds means you’re driving blind for 33 m. At 100 km/h, that distance increases to 55 m. Not only that, using a mobile phone while driving greatly increases your risk of getting into an accident. Between 2012 and 2017, 175 crashes caused by mobile phones led to 9 deaths and 50 serious injuries.
“The decision to pick up your phone can have fatal consequences. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving on a busy city motorway or on an isolated road in the bush – there’s just no excuse for using your phone illegally,” said Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole.
The camera rollout will be accompanied by a campaign called “Get Your Hand Off It” aimed at people aged between 17-39, the age group with the highest rate of mobile phone usage while driving. The campaign features the Sydney Swans and aims to show NSW drivers what safe driving looks like.
Now is a good time to refamiliarise yourself with NSW’s road rules on mobile phone usage. If you want to take a call or listen to music, the only way to do so legally is if you’re controlling your phone hands-free or if you have it placed in a phone mount (or cradle) where it won’t interfere with your view of the road. If you’re using your phone for GPS navigation, you’ll need it in a mobile phone cradle or set to read out the directions out loud. Under no circumstances can you hold your phone (whether it’s in your hand, in your lap or tucked between your shoulder and ear) unless you’re handing it over to a passenger.
As for Learner, P1 and P2 drivers, the rules are still the same – no mobile phone use whatsoever.
If you want to know more about the new mobile phone detection cameras, watch Transport for NSW’s video below.