Aussie drivers stumped by bizarre camera spotted on roadside: 'Big brother is watching'

The device was spotted amid the continued roll-out of the new portable mobile phone detection cameras - but is it something different?

Camera on the side of the road (left) heavy traffic (right).
This strange looking camera has prompted speculation over what it is used for. Source: Facebook/Getty

Aussie drivers have been left confused by a bizarre camera spotted on the side of the road, with some fearing that it was a new device for spotting traffic offences. A warning on the camera saying it was taking 24-hour surveillance also sparked debate with some arguing that it was another disturbing sign that "big brother is watching".

A driver shared the photo of the white camera on wheels on Facebook after spotting it on Clarrie Hermes Drive in Nicolls, ACT, asking what it was for. Many suggested it was monitoring for seat belt and mobile phone use and those caught doing the wrong thing would be issued with stiff fines.

It comes as the new portable mobile phone and seat belt cameras continue to be rolled out in multiple jurisdictions around Australia.

Several others said it could be a light for night roadworks, while others suggested that it was a camera with a live feed to police which authorities used to locate stolen cars and other criminal activity.

Mobile traffic camera with a yellow base.
These cameras with a yellow base are the ones which catch out people using mobile phones behind the wheel. Source: Facebook

Others said the camera was a traffic monitoring camera, often put in place where there is a history of accidents, "anti-social behaviour, burn-outs etc". They argued that the cameras used to catch out drivers using their phones had a yellow base, while this one was white.

Authorities responded to Yahoo News Australia's inquiries about the cameras to confirm that this was indeed the case and the cameras were designed to monitor traffic and were not used to issue fines.

Addressing speculation on the device, an ACT Police spokesperson said, “These are traffic monitoring cameras operated by Transport Policing. They are not attached to any fine system.”

When asked whether they were to monitor traffic flow, congestion or traffic offences, the spokesperson replied: “All of those things – but they are not used to issue infringements."

“The ACT Government has a program including fixed and mobile assets for identifying and issuing infringements.”

Road safety advocate Peter Frazer, who founded the Sarah Group, named after his 23-year-old daughter who was killed in a roadside crash after her car broke down on the Hume Highway in 2012, told Yahoo News Australia that mobile cameras were needed to help reduce Australia's horrific road death toll.

“It's easy for people to say: 'This is unfair, I should be able to do whatever I like on the road,' but it's unacceptable in the community,“ he told Yahoo News Australia. “This is what needs to happen to change behaviour.“

He said quite often in-car systems alerted motorists to the location of fixed speed cameras so speeding drivers slowed down to prevent themselves from being caught, before then accelerating again.

Peter Frazer.
Peter Frazer sits next to a painting of his daughter who was killed in a tragic car accident. Source: AAP

“There has been a large increase in the number of people killed and injured on our roads and speed is always the biggest factor,“ Frazer said. “Cameras are not about surveillance at all, they actively protect all those on the road."

Describing the Australian road death toll as an "epidemic", he said 1300 people were killed and 40,000 others were seriously injured in crashes each year on Aussie roads at a cost of $30 billion annually to the economy and community.

The Sarah Group started National Road Safety Week and has strongly fought for changes to protect all road users. "Until we get groups within our community to say 'enough is enough', we will continue have an atrocious loss of life on our roads," Frazer told Yahoo. "That's something we can control."

Some people commenting on the social media post said they hoped that the camera would pick up on the problems with traffic flow in the area and that would lead to improvements.

“If it’s to monitor traffic on Clarrie Hermes Dr, it would have plenty of data to show that the road needs to have another lane added on the same side of the road where the camera is," one commented.

Others pointed that "if you're not doing anything wrong, don't worry about it". While many expressed disappointment at the levels of government "spying" on citizens, with some saying it was proof "Big Brother is watching".

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