The new cameras set to catch out this notorious driver habit

Ash Cant

A world-first initiative will launch in NSW this weekend, utilising new technology which will crack down on motorists using their mobile phones while on the road.

Mobile phone detection cameras will target illegal mobile phone use on NSW roads, starting Sunday December 1.

The program includes both fixed and transportable trailer-mounted cameras which will capture images in the front seats of the car to detect illegal mobile phone use, according to Road Safety NSW.

Picture of someone holding their mobile phone while driving, which is illegal for all drivers in NSW.
New technology will crack down on drivers using their mobile phones illegally while driving, and after three months will be fined. Source: Getty Images.

How the cameras detect mobile phone use

Utilising artificial intelligence, the images captured on the camera are automatically reviewed to detect offenders on the road and exclude drivers who are not using their mobile phones.

When the system determines an image of a likely offender, the photo is then verified by authorised personnel.

The images will be stored securely and there are “strict controls” in place to ensure the images are properly managed.

The detection system will operate day and night in all weather conditions.

Legislation passed in July 2018 enabled the state government to roll out the new technology.

From January 2019 and June 2019, the technology was trialled and during the pilot program more than 8.5 million vehicles were checked by program tech company Acusensus, and more than 100,000 drivers were found to be illegally using their phones.

A picture showing how the camera zooms in to pick up mobile phone use.  Source: NSW Transport.
The new cameras use artificial technology to catch people on their phone. Source: NSW Transport.

How much is the fine?

There is a three-month grace period, starting December 1, 2019.

For the first three months, drivers illegally using their phones will receive a warning letter, after that, people will be fined if they are caught using their mobile phones while driving.

Motorists will be fined at $344 if caught, or a $457 fine will apply if caught in a school zone.

Offending drivers will also cop five demerit points, or 10 when double-demerits apply.

While there is a three month warning period, NSW will continue to issue infringements when necessary, as per regular operation.

A file picture of a man in a suit using his mobile phone in his car.
Starting December, there is a three-month warning period where offenders will not be fine. Source: Getty Images.

When can I use my phone while driving?

Although it is illegal for drivers to hold their phones while in the car, even if they are stationary, full licence holders are only allowed to use their mobile phones under a few circumstances.

Unrestricted drivers are allowed to make or answer phone calls, or play audio if their mobile device can be used without touching the phone, through using hands-free or Bluetooth.

The phone must be secured in a cradle and not in the driver’s hand.

Mobile phones can be used as a driver’s aid, like navigation, however the phone must still be mounted.

The same rules for unrestricted drivers apply for all cyclists.

However, learner and provisional drivers are not permitted to use their mobile phones while driving under any circumstance, this includes using hands-free or Bluetooth.

For both restricted and unrestricted drivers, it is illegal for them to access their Digital Driver’s Licence unless they are instructed to do so by police.

Road Safety NSW warns if learner or provisional P1 drivers are busted using their mobile phones while driving, they will exceed the demerit point threshold and lose their licence. All restricted licence holders will lose their licence if caught during double demerits.

Picture of a mobile phone, providing navigation for the driver on a cradle, which is legal for unrestricted drivers.
Restricted drivers are not allowed to use their phone under any circumstance, even for navigation. Source: Getty Images.

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