Drivers to face hefty fines for notorious bad habit

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NSW drivers who threaten lives by using mobile phones behind the wheel risk being caught by unmarked cameras as new technology rolls out across the state today.

However, drivers captured flouting the law will initially be spared punishment during a three-month grace period which will see them receive a warning letter only.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance says the world-first technology targeting phone use via fixed and mobile trailer-mounted cameras would roll out from Sunday.

It follows a six-month trial that caught more than 100,000 drivers.

"It's stupid, it's dangerous, it'll kill someone - and people are not getting the message," Mr Constance told reporters on Friday.

Transport for NSW image from mobile detection camera shows a driver using a mobile phone while driving.
Mobile Phone Detection Camera image and released by Transport for NSW shows a driver using a mobile phone while driving in January. Source: AAP

"Driving with a mobile phone is like driving drunk. Driving with a mobile phone is equivalent to .08 behind the wheel of a car and that's why we're now being hard and fast on this."

Mr Constance said the grace period was fair and the state government was "being kind in that regard".

"We want people to get the warning letter and change their behaviour immediately, which I believe will happen," he said.

Police will still enforce illegal phone use and issue infringements as usual during the grace period.

About 45 cameras will ultimately be rolled out across Sydney and regional NSW. They won't be marked by signage.

At the conclusion of the warning period, drivers will be fined $344 - or $457 if caught in a school zone - and lose five demerit points.

Driver shown talking on her phone as NSW begins using mobile detection cameras Sunday.
Woman talking on her phone while driving as NSW introduces mobile phone detection cameras. Source: AAP

Drivers can legally use phone cradles and make and receive phone calls through Bluetooth, Mr Constance said.

He said images would be destroyed within an hour of them being taken if phones weren't detected via an algorithm.

If mobiles were present, the images would then be considered by two qualified professionals.

Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole says an estimated 135 million vehicle checks will be performed annually under the program by 2023.

NSW Centre for Road Safety executive director Bernard Carlon says modelling shows the cameras could prevent 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years.

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