New focus on traffic offences

Police are testing a long-range camera that can spot drivers using their mobile phones or not wearing seat belts from up to 700m away.

Conventional speed camera images are also being scanned for phone use that is resulting in drivers being hit with a "double whammy" of speed and phone infringements.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Michelle Fyfe said as technology advanced, the images had become crisper and clearer, enabling officers to identify a range of offences.

Several speeding drivers are already facing a second penalty for talking on their phones and police hope to eventually use the photographs to catch people not wearing seatbelts.

"It's about getting an image that's suitable to be used in court should it need to be," Mrs Fyfe said. A motorist caught using their phone and speeding at least 20km/h over the limit during a double demerits period - when demerits for those offences double to six each - could face a demerit point ban in one image.

Mrs Fyfe said she was shocked that drivers were still using hand-held mobile phones despite warnings.

If police add the long-range camera to their arsenal, motorists who try to be sneaky by dropping their phone, putting on their seatbelt or slowing down when they see a police car or camera will have even less chance of avoiding penalties.

"At 700m, we'll probably see them before they see us," Mrs Fyfe said. Victoria Police have been using the portable cameras, which have a long lens, to catch drivers not wearing seatbelts, using a phone, or even driving carelessly by applying make-up or eating behind the wheel.

WA Police hope to integrate the long-lens cameras with their digital speed cameras and Mrs Fyfe said police were pleased advancing technology gave them the opportunity to target several dangerous offences at once.

"Speed, not wearing a seatbelt, using a mobile phone, being distracted or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs makes you more prone to accidents," she said.

The Office of Road Safety said 60 people were killed on WA roads on average each year because of speed-related crashes, with 375 people seriously injured.

Distraction was a factor in about 32 per cent of all road crash deaths and serious injuries in WA between 2005 and 2007, the Office of Road Safety said.

The West Australian

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