‘Dystopian’ roadside structure that could cost Aussie motorists $577

Authorities say the mystery device can save lives.

An unusual structure beside an Aussie highway has baffled motorists, prompting many to question what it's used for. The set-up was spotted on Monday, without signs indicating what it is.

After photos of the device were posted online, some social media users guessed it was hi-tech surveillance equipment, with one detractor commenting, "This is some dystopian level s**t."

Mobile phone and seatbelt detection camera beside Victorian road
An unusual device has caused confusion amongst Aussie road users. Source: Reddit

Mystery solved

A Transport Accident Commission (TAC) spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia it's a solar-powered camera, which was installed on Victoria's Nepean Highway last Wednesday, and is designed to catch mobile phone and seatbelt offences — with fines as high as $577 and four demerit points.

"Too many people are being seriously injured or killed on our roads as a result of driving while distracted or not wearing seatbelts correctly," the spokesperson said.

"Mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras have been introduced to reduce the number of people dying on our roads and encourage people to do the right thing while driving.

New tech in safety crackdown

The new technology is being rolled out by the Victorian Government at a cost of $33.7 million following a three-month trial, which found that out of 679,438 vehicles, more than 16,000 drivers were caught illegally using a mobile phone while driving.

The Victorian Government predicts the roll-out of automated mobile phone cameras will prevent 95 road deaths per year.

"Each camera trailer has two cameras and an infra-red flash that are enabled with artificial intelligence (AI) software. The cameras take high-resolution images any time of the day or night and in all traffic and weather conditions," the Victorian Government's website reads.

AI technology reviews each image and if no potential offence is detected, it rejects the image. However, if it detects a driver using a mobile device, or a driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt or wearing one incorrectly, it will flag the image for further review and they are then checked and verified by a qualified independent officer.

Mobile phone on driver's leg; Driver not wearing seatbelt
Drivers could get slapped with huge fines for mobile phone or seatbelt offences. Source: Accident Transport Commission

The images collected show the vehicle's licence plate and two further images inside the vehicle. One is taken at a shallow forward-facing angle to detect phone-to-ear and seatbelt offences and a second is taken at a steep downward angle to detect seatbelt offences and drivers touching their phones or having a device resting on their body, for instance, their leg.

The images may show the faces of the driver, passengers and other people but the cameras do not use facial recognition technology.

Huge fines for phone and seatbelt offences

Horrifying statistics show that each year, one in four drivers and passengers killed in vehicle accidents are not wearing seatbelts while driver distraction is also a major cause of crashes on Victorian roads.

As of November 1, there were 144 mobile phone and seatbelt camera locations across the state. Fines of $577 and four demerit points apply to motorists caught using a portable device while driving, and a $385 fine with three demerit points applies if they or a passenger are not wearing a seatbelt or are wearing one incorrectly.

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