Aussies warned over costly road act as 70,000 drivers caught by new cameras

In just under two months, tens of thousands of drivers were caught using their phones on new mobile detection cameras being rolled out in South Australia.

A person is seen using his pinky to drive a car in SA, as new cameras are rolled out to combat dangerous driving.
Over 71,000 drivers in SA were detected using their phones in under two months after new cameras were rolled out earlier this year. Source: 9News

As authorities grapple with how best to combat the rising death toll on our roads, new technology in one state has detected a whopping 70,000 drivers using their phones behind the wheel in less than two months.

Government data revealed that road deaths had risen by almost 10 per cent nationally in the 12 months to March, compared to the previous year, with 2023 crowned the deadliest year on Australia’s roads in more than half a decade. In South Australia, the state's first mobile phone detection cameras were rolled out in January as part of a $16 million plan to reduce fatalities on roads caused by driver distraction.

Officials hope the new cameras will make a dent in the problem, with 117 people killed on SA roads last year. During a two month trial period, some seven million motorists were detected on the cameras across the state, and of those 71,044 people were found to have been using their mobile found behind the wheel, police have revealed.

A person using their phone on mobile detection cameras in SA.
Authorities say if the offences were detected during a non-trial phase, up to $45 million would've been raised in fines. Source: 9News

Motorists were caught in a whole range of illegal and dangerous scenarios, including one who was snapped steering the car with their pinky finger. Another was photographed with their dog on their lap and their phone in the other hand and officers say these kinds of tohughtless acts are becoming all too common.

According to SA Police, the road offences, if detected during a non-trial phase, would have generated more than $45 million in fines. To make matters worse, officers say the cameras weren't even switched on the entire time during the testing period.

While the testing period officially ended this week, there will be a short grace period with fines to start being issued from September.

Distraction accounts for 20-30 per cent of serious injuries and fatalities on the SA roads, Police Superintendent Darren Fielke reminded the public, saying that the new cameras are "here to make people think about what they're doing while they're driving".

As South Australia catches up with other states including NSW, Queensland and Victoria, the cameras are now running at five priority locations across Adelaide. They include the Southern Expressway at Darlington, South Road in Torrensville, North South Motorway in Regency Park, Port Road, in Hindmarsh and Port Wakefield Road in Gepps Cross.

Signage will be erected in the coming months warning drivers that they are approaching the cameras and fines worth $640, plus three demerit points, will be issued from September 19. Until then, drivers caught during the grace period will only receive a warning letter.

All funds raised from the fines will be returned to the Community Road Safety Fund, to go toward road safety initiatives, including safety improvements, education programs and public advertising.

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