Thousands caught by new road cameras
Thousands of drivers have been caught using their phones behind the wheel by the new mobile detection cameras now in use across NSW.
About 45 fixed and mobile trailer-mounted cameras were switched on across the state on December 1 to catch out law breaking motorists.
During the first week the cameras checked 773,532 vehicles and 3,303 drivers were caught illegally using their phones behind the wheel in various locations across the state.
However, the drivers won't cop a fine or demerit points due to a three-month grace period whereby motorists will first receive a warning letter.
Minister for Roads Andrew Constance said this kind of behaviour from road users was "stupid" and needed to end.
"At 60km/h if you look at your phone while driving for just two seconds, you travel 33 metres blind - it's dangerous, it's stupid and it needs to stop," he said.
"Around 500 drivers a day are getting pinged by these cameras doing the wrong thing. With double demerits starting Friday we need drivers to get the message and get off the phone, otherwise they risk killing themselves or someone innocent on our roads."
Mr Constance thanked the thousands of other drivers who have been doing the right thing.
"We have seen a reduction in the noncompliance rate by two thirds since we first trailed the technology earlier this year," he said.
The camera pilot between January and June identified more than 100,000 drivers illegally using a mobile phone while driving from the 8,500,000 vehicles checked.
For the first three months the cameras are running, drivers will not be issued fines if they are caught by the new technology.
Instead, they'll be sent warning letters during a grace period.
This grace period will finish at the start of March 2020 and from then drivers caught by the mobile detection camera will receive a $344 fine and five demerit points.
This penalty is bumped up to $457 if they are caught in a school zone or ten demerit points if they are caught during a double demerits period.
Double demerits will be in force over the Christmas and New Year period from December 20 to January 1, 2020.
The technology uses high-definition cameras to capture images of the front seats of vehicles as they drive past.
Artificial intelligence is then used to automatically review the images and detect if a driver is on their phone.
If the automated system flags an offending driver, that image will be reviewed by a human before a penalty is issued.
The cameras are even capable of catching dangerous drivers at night, in poor weather conditions and at speeds up to 300km/h.
As with other road safety camera programs in NSW, strict controls are in place to ensure images captured by the system are securely stored and managed.
Executive Director of Transport for NSW's Centre for Road Safety Bernard Carlon said the latest addition to the Government's road safety program could prevent about 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years.
"We need to see a steep behavioural change from motorists to save lives. While drivers caught on camera get a warning now, NSW Police will continue to issue fines for illegal mobile phone use as part of their regular operations," Mr Carlon said.
The mobile phone detection camera program will progressively expand to perform an estimated 135 million vehicle checks on NSW roads each year by 2023.
NO WARNING SIGNS FOR DRIVERS
Unlike with speed cameras, there are no warning signs to alert drivers to the presence of the mobile detection cameras.
"Mobile phone use while driving is not a black spot problem it is happening all over the road network all the time," Mr Carlon said.
"To truly deter people from breaking the law and putting people's lives at risk, offenders need to believe they could be caught anywhere on the road network at any time."
However, NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury previously backed a push for warning signs to be put up, saying the public have a right to know where they are located.
"The NRMA fought for these cameras, but they must come with warning signs in the same way every other camera on our roads has," Mr Khoury said.
"These cameras must be about getting people to put down their phones, not taking away licences.
"We want people to change their behaviour behind the wheel - not three weeks later when they get a fine in the mail. Warning signs are a vital part of the enforcement and education mix."