The new mobile phone fine drivers could cop from March 1

The grace period is over for motorists caught using their devices on mobile phone detection cameras.

Starting from Sunday, mobile phone detection cameras will be enforced across NSW, with offenders set to cop huge fines and demerit points.

In December last year, new technology which detects mobile phone use was rolled out across the state and until now motorists caught using their phones were spared punishment and received a mere warning letter.

As of March 1, 2020, illegal mobile phone use caught on the new technology will result in a $344 fine and five demerit points, which increases to 10 demerit points during a double-demerits period.

In a school zone, that fine rises to $457, but the demerit points penalty remains the same.

A driver using a device caught by a Mobile Phone Detection Camera. The image was released by Transport for NSW.
The NSW government has rolled out 45 mobile phone detection cameras across the state. Source: Transport for NSW via AP

In the first week of December last year after the new program rolled out, 3303 people were busted using their mobiles. The “world-first” initiative checked more than 770,500 vehicles in the first week, with about 45 cameras being used state-wide.

The pilot program which ran from January to June last year caught 100,000 drivers illegally using their phones.

The program utilises both fixed and transportable cameras. In addition to this, NSW Police continue to enforce illegal mobile phone use and can issue infringements as they always have done.

Using artificial intelligence, the cameras review images for mobile phone use and exclude those who are not offending.

From March 1, 2020, drivers caught on their mobile phones will get a $344 fine and five demerit points.
From March 1, 2020, drivers caught on their mobile phones will get a $344 fine and five demerit points. Source: Getty

The images that are “likely” to feature a driver indulging in the illegal act are then verified by an authorised adjudicator.

The Mobile Phone Detection Camera Program was launched to help the state government meet its target of reducing road fatalities and serious injuries by 30 per cent by 2021, aiming for zero by 2056.

The technology is not only a first in Australia, but Transport NSW boasts there is no “fully operational mobile phone detection camera enforcement system ahead of NSW”.

Since 2012 in the state there have been 183 crashes which involved a rider or driver using their mobile phones, according to NSW Transport, which resulted in 13 deaths and 245 injuries.

When driver can use mobile phones legally

Learner and provisional drivers are not permitted to use their mobile phones while behind the wheel, unless they are using their device’s wallet function to make a transaction if they are off the road – in a carpark or drive thru – or if they are asked to access a digital driver’s license by police.

Unrestricted drivers are allowed to use their mobiles while driving to make or receive a call, use music or audio functions or use a driver’s aid, like a navigation system, but only if their phone is secured in a cradle and can be operated without physically touching the phone – with Bluetooth for example.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance previously branded mobile phone use while driving as “stupid” and “dangerous”, and compared it to drunk driving.

“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,” he said.

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