Mobile Phone Detection Cameras: What You Need To Know

New phone laws to take effect on 01 December 2019

Mobile Phone Detection Cameras: What You Need To Know

Statistics reveal that approximately 158 motor vehicle accidents involved a driver (or motorbike rider) using a hand-held mobile phone between 2012 and 2018. However, the major concern that the NSW Government held was that the number of crashes which involved the use of a mobile phones is significantly higher due to an unwillingness for motorists to disclose that information.

As such, the NSW Government received The Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019 on 12 November 2019, implementing world-first technology in the form of mobile phone detections cameras in New South Wales. The mobile phone detection camera’s became operational as of 1 December 2019.

The purpose of these cameras are to detect the illegal use of mobile phones whilst driving. The NSW government are concerned that the use of drivers using their mobile phones has become normalised behaviour, yet the risks involved seem to be ignored.

According to caradvice.com.au, currently there are 10 fixed mobile phone detection cameras and unspecified amount of portable mobile phone detection cameras activated through NSW.

Unlike speed and red light cameras, there will be no warning signs erected to warn drivers as to the whereabouts of these mobile phone detection cameras. This is still a contentious issue and debated about publicly amongst transport authorities and bodies.

Executive Director of Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety, Bernard Carlon has stated that the only way to deter the community from using their mobile phones is to implement ‘an anywhere, at anytime’ situation. Further, the NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has also publicly stated his concern in relation to warning the community about the mobile phone detection cameras, essentially stating that by installing these signs it will dramatically decrease the desired effect of these cameras.

However, on the other hand NRMA spokesman Mr Peter Khoury, who provided support for the implementation of these cameras, but strongly opposes the idea of not having warning signs erected. His stated that “These cameras must be about getting people to put down their phones, not taking away licenses”.

THE STORY

Mr Alexander Jannink an engineering graduate from the University of Melbourne was determined to develop technology that could have prevented the untimely death of his friend whose death was a result of a suspected motorist using his mobile phone.

The technology is exceptionally sophisticated. The mobile phone detection cameras can accurately detect mobile phone use of vehicles travelling up to 300 km per hour. They are effective whether it is day or night time and through any type of weather conditions.

HOW THE CAMERAS OPERATE

A high resolution image captures each vehicle that passes the camera, the images are then automatically reviewed through artificial intelligence to detect offending drivers and exclude images of non-offending drivers. The images which detect offending drivers are then verified by a human eye to confirm that a mobile phone is in fact being used illegally. If such conduct is confirmed a fine will be issued in the mail.

THE LAW – FULLY LICENSED HOLDERS

Regulation 300 of the Road Rules 2014 NSW provides for the circumstances when a fully licensed driver may use their mobile phone.

The Rule states:

A fully licensed driver is not allowed to use any function of a mobile phone, whilst the vehicle is moving or stationary (unless the car is in park AND out of the line of traffic), other than to take or make a call, play audio or use navigation maps and only if the phone is secured in a phone cradle affixed to the vehicle OR the phone can be operated without touching any part of the phone.

You cannot:

  • Hold the phone in your hand (unless you are passing the phone to a passenger);
  • Use the phone by resting it on any part of your body whilst driving;
  • Manually input anything into the phone;
  • Turn the phone off or on, or lock the phone; or
  • Operate any other function of the phone.

Pressing or touching anything on the phone (including the screen, or any other function key on the phone) or otherwise manipulating the phone (including ‘swiping’ the screen on the phone) in any way, other than in the above circumstances, will be deemed to be illegal mobile phone use.

To learn more about the offence of using your mobile phone while driving please click here.

National Criminal Lawyers® have successfully defended and represented several individuals charged with allegedly using their mobile phone whilst driving. We have secured numerous dismissals and non-convictions for those individuals.

DIGITAL LICENSES

A noteworthy comment, in light of the introduction of the new digital driving licenses’, in the event you are stopped by a police officer and you have elected to utilise this new technology, you will only be allowed to use your phone to present your license only when the police officer, has given you permission to do so.

THE LAW – RESTRICTED LICENSE HOLDERS (LEARNER, P1 AND P2 LICENSE)

Legislation specifically forbids all restricted license holders, that is any person that holds a learners license or provisional (P1 and P2) licence, from using any function on their mobile phone.

It does not matter if the phone can be operated handsfree, or when Bluetooth is activated, or if the phone is situated in a mounted cradle available.

There are no circumstances available to a restricted license holder which would allow them to use their phone whilst driving, or stationary (unless the vehicle is in park and out of the line of traffic).

PENALTIES

Whilst mobile phone detection cameras have commenced operating, there will be a grace period of 3 months. This means that if you are caught using your mobile phone between 1 December 2019 and 29 February 2020 you will receive a warning letter instead of a penalty notice.

Police Officers, however, will still continue to enforce this road rule throughout this period.

The Penalties for illegal mobile phone use includes:

  • $344 fine and 5 demerit points.
  • If caught in a School Zone, the fine will be $457.
  • During double demerit period demerit points will increase to 10.

IS THIS JUST ANOTHER FORM OF REVENUE RAISING?

The Minister for Roads and Transport, Mr Andrew Constance, confirmed during an interview with Radio 2GB “We want to create the same environment that we have around [random breath testing] because quiet frankly using a mobile phone is equivalent to driving drunk behind the wheel.”

Mr Constance further went on to state that all revenue collected in the way of fines as a result of the detection of illegal mobile phone use will be reinvested into the continuing education of the  community with respect to road safety.

With that in mind, it is a waiting game to see whether these mobile phone detection cameras do provide a general or specific deterrence within the community regarding the use of mobile phones use whilst driving and the degree in which the revenue collected will benefit the citizens of New South Wales.

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