An Australian state is trying to convince individuals to download their smartphones while driving to prosecute distracted motorists by rolling out cameras.
New South Wales Roads Minister Andrew Constance said Monday that the most populous state in Australia is the world’s first jurisdiction to use such technology to punish drivers who are distracted by social media, text messages or phone calls.
Experts in road safety are alarmed by the increasing incidence of crashes involving drivers on New South Wales highways using smartphones. Experts claim riders who use phones illegally increase their likelihood of a fourfold accident.
“There’s no doubt drink-driving as far as I’m worried is on an equal footing with mobile phone use, and that’s why we want everyone to know that you’re going to get caught doing this anytime, anywhere,” Constance told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “By December, the government intends to roll out 45 mobile phone detection cameras across the state.
In reality, there are two cameras in each unit. One camera pictures the registration plate of a car and a second high-set lens looks down through the windscreen and can see with their hands what riders are doing.
Artificial intelligence is used by the units to exclude drivers who do not touch their phones. Photos showing suspected unlawful conduct are referred for human eyes verification before a notice of breach is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle along with a fine of 344 Australian dollars ($232). Some cameras are continuously attached to roadsides and others are put on trailers and relocated around the state.
This year, a six-month trial of two fixed cameras inspected 8.5 million cars and identified over 100,000 drivers with their hands-on phones, including one driver who used both a mobile and an iPad. Another driver, the government said, had a passenger steering whilst both held phones. The government intends to grow the program by 2023 to 135 million inspections a year. There are 5.2 million registered cars in New South Wales.