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26 July, 2020

Mobile Cameras Spying Phone Use

Transportable, mobile phone detection cameras start rolling out across Queensland this week in an evaluation trial which runs until Christmas - part of a concerted, on-going bid to stamp out dangerous and illegal mobile device use while driving.

In an Australian-first, the cameras will also capture people failing to wear a seatbelt.

The trial of the specialised cameras that can monitor vehicles across multi-traffic lanes had to be postponed in April because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Their trial deployment here now follows a successful roll-out in New South Wales where just a handful of cameras snapped 21,000 drivers using handheld devices in their first two months of operation alone.  

The high-tech cameras can be installed on overpasses and bridges or simply operate from trailers at the roadside. Earlier this month, legislation was passed by the Palaszczuk Government to permit the cameras to become a vital and permanent tool for road safety enforcement right across Queensland.  

Since the $1,000 fine for distracted driving took effect in February - the toughest penalty for the offence in Australia, more than 2,300 offences have been detected and fines totalling $2.3 million issued.

These drivers also receive four demerit points.

But, eight of those fined have also been booked again for illegally using a mobile phone while driving and have lost a further eight demerit points.

Having been caught twice within 12 months they face a loss of licence or a 1 year ‘good driving behaviour’ period.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said he made no apology for cracking down hard on drivers who flout the law in this manner.

“The message is direct and very simple: just put your phone away," Mr Bailey said.

“Using your mobile phone when you’re behind the wheel is as dangerous as drunk and drug driving.

“33 Queensland lives were confirmed to have been lost in 2018 alone due to driver distraction, while another 1,359 people were hospitalised.

“That the number was likely higher due to carnage at crash scenes often making it difficult for forensic experts to determine if distraction was a cause.

However, Mr Bailey said Queensland drivers caught doing the wrong thing during the six-month trial won’t be fined or receive a photograph of their illegal behaviour.

“Initially, we are simply evaluating the cameras effectiveness.

The breakthrough AI technology installed in the latest mobile detection cameras allows them to operate 24/7.

Using artificial intelligence, the system scans images of the drivers to detect the possibility of mobile device use.

While all vehicles at the camera site are scanned, images will only be viewed by authorised personnel as part of the testing process.

The Queensland trial to test the technology will be located throughout Queensland, including many regional locations.

Mr Bailey said so far in 2020, 132 lives have been lost on Queensland roads, 18 more than the previous year.

“When I read the reports, it’s startling to see how many people died because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt.

“Police are already out there enforcing rules for distracted driving and failing to wear a seatbelt, and if the trial is successful, these cameras will truly mean you can be caught anywhere, anytime for endangering not only your life but the lives of others.”

RACQ spokesperson Paul Turner said the Club supported the trial with driver distraction the fastest growing problem on Queensland roads.

“Mobile phone detection cameras give police greater ability to catch those doing the wrong thing, risking their lives and everyone else on the road by using their mobile phones,” Mr Turner said.

“We have to wake up to ourselves and understand driver distraction is as dangerous as drink driving.

“If you don’t want to get caught, it’s simple, set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ and leave it alone while driving.”

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