In December 2019, NSW became the first state in Australia to introduce mobile phone-detecting cameras aimed at curbing dangerous phone usage while driving. From March 1, those cameras will now issue big fines to anyone breaking the law.
NSW's phone-detecting camera have been in force for three months since being rolled out in December 2019 but until now, drivers have only been issued with warnings if they were found to be illegally using a mobile phone device while driving. From March 1, anyone caught using their phone will be issued with a $344 fine, or $457 in a school zone, and five demerit points, according to Transport for NSW.
In the three-month grace period, NSW's Minister for Roads Andrew Constance said nine million vehicles had been monitored by the cameras with more than 30,000 warning letters being issued.
"We're seeing more than 99 per cent of drivers doing the right thing, so when we compare this with the findings from the pilot last year, it is clear drivers are starting to get the message," Minister Constance said in a media release.
"It's important that drivers who continue to put the safety of themselves, passengers and the local community at risk realise that no matter where you are you could be caught and you will be fined."
The cameras function using artificial intelligence technology, which allows it to detect whether a driver is using their phone illegally. A human worker will then review the images captured by the camera to determine whether a wrongdoing occured.
In NSW, it's only legal for drivers to use their phone to make a call, play music and navigate if the device is secured in a cradle that does not obstruct the driver's view. For learner and P-plater drivers, there's a zero tolerance policy meaning you can't use your device at all while driving, hands-free or not. It's also illegal to access your digital driver's licence while stationary unless asked by a police officer.
While other states are yet to announce their own plans, Lifehacker Australia found a number of them were quietly watching how the project panned out in the state. Victoria and South Australia were looking into the viability of the technology while Queensland's roads authority said it was likely on the table for the state in the near future.
Several months back the NSW government announced the permanent implementation of mobile phone detection cameras across the state. They're going live this weekend and they won't have warning signs.