BEST OF 2023: Keep your pants on, mobile detection cameras aren't all bad

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Warning signs will be erected at entrances to the ACT that these cameras are in use. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Ross Solly shares his thoughts about mobile phone detection cameras.

Sometimes you don’t need a mobile phone detection camera or clever AI technology to identify drivers using a mobile phone.

Some easy detection methods:

  • They are always slow to move off when the lights turn green. Sometimes they don’t move at all. I guess those social media cat pictures are just far too interesting.
  • Their speed varies dramatically as they choof down the highway, not even realising their speed is dropping dramatically every time they update their Insta story.
  • Their car moves about erratically. Generally, it’s pretty easy for most of us to drive in a straight line and avoid veering into another lane (except when we hit one of Canberra’s famous potholes).

These people are a damn nuisance and a serious danger on the roads, and all power to those in authority who want to rid our roads of these menaces. We now have five detection cameras keeping a beady eye, or lens, on us as we potter around the suburbs. Three are mobile and very easy to spot, while two are fixed (Hindmarsh and Gungahlin Drives).

READ ALSO Mobile phone distraction in the sights of new cameras on Canberra’s roads

I know some are concerned this is George Orwell’s 1984 all over again, with mass surveillance keeping control of the everyday actions of the peasants while feeding us propaganda about road safety and privacy checks and balances.

We are right to ask questions. It’s a tricky balancing act, but if people using mobile phones while driving really have reached epidemic proportions in the ACT, sticking an eye in the sky to keep an eye on us might be the price we have to pay.

Just a word of warning … From what I’ve seen, the types of images these cameras can take, ostensibly to show a mobile phone sitting on your lap while driving, can also reveal if you’ve headed off to work or school creating a fashion crime.

At the bare minimum, we should all be encouraged to wear pants while driving. (My Grandma always told me it was important to wear clean underpants and pressed slacks every day because you never know when you might have a car accident. And this was years before governments started sticking up cameras that could actually detect if you are wearing pants. Grandma was years ahead of her time.)

And no more dropping the kids off to school in your undies, if that is your want on occasions.

READ ALSO ‘Unlock the suburbs’: Master Builders’ plea to government to fix housing target shortfalls

I can plug my phone into my car’s audio and navigation system, which technically removes the need to hold or cradle my mobile. But I have one question: if, while I am waiting at the traffic lights, I need to change my navigation or key in a new destination, will I be pinged?

Will I lose three demerits and $498 (how did they come up with that figure, by the way? $500 sounds much more serious than $498, so why not just slap an extra two bucks on and be done with it?)

I guess if I become the motorist sitting at the lights after they turn green, I will deserve it. I hope if that day ever comes, I’m wearing neat slacks.

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Crazed_Loner5:17 pm 29 Dec 23

The reason the fixed speed cameras catch you from behind rather than forwards in the ACT is because the ACT Human Rights Commission objected to that very thing (facial recognition). I would imagine they would have something further to say about AI facial recognition cameras and the effect on rights embedded in its Act. People like to scoff at the HRC…until their human rights are affected.

Yes Ross you can and will be fined if you are stopped at traffic lights and want to change navigation or enter a new address. I did this and got a fine

privatepublic2:39 pm 29 Dec 23

We all agree that mobile phones behind the wheel can be dangerous. Also, some car makes have large screens, which may require up to two menu changes for the aircon to be switched on. This is also needs to be looked at, as in ADR design rule changes.

Proper enforcement via a Police Officer is the only way to go.

VicRoads at one point in time had more speed cameras than any other country, not sure if it still the case. Anyways VicRoads has announced this year that they have the highest fatalities recorded on their roads. These devices are not good at detecting the significant issues.

These devices do not save lives. Accordingly Victoria “In the 2021-2022 financial year, fines issued from road safety cameras amounted to $404 million”. Dam good money.

Near the bottom of Erindale Hill, the tuggers side, there is a strange looking camera thingo near the roundabout. .

The cameras ( which point every which way ) sit on a pole on top of a large white trailer, and has 3 solar cells to power it.

There’s no signage on the trailer and to me it looks very ominous.

Any UFO activity been noticed in the area ?

Capital Retro10:52 am 29 Dec 23

If it is solar powered it will only be working part time like the solar powered plastic bottle return facility in the carpark at Erindale Shops.

Lefty Boomer9:12 am 29 Dec 23

Perfectly happy to have these cameras…I’ve seen what distracted drivers can do, including the deaths they caused by being on their phones in cars.

Not happy to have them. Just more from the surveillance state

I don’t understand why they introduce these cameras, and then say they won’t issue fines for several months… I’d understood it was already illegal and dangerous to use a phone while driving?

Agreed. This was always a stupid idea to delay, especially for so long. Makes a joke of the whole plan.

If they put a cop in the cherry picker and hovered them over the road to watch people, most people would squeal its oppreessive surveillance…..but put up a camera ( assuming they last of course…) and people just take it.

Like double demerits, I doubt it will make any difference, and just make more money and expand the police state yet further into our lives.

How do you stop an Australian? Put a traffic cone in front of them…..

Pathetic really….and yet….

But scrabbling around in the passenger side footwell to retrieve your street directory is absolutely fine. I agree that mobile phone use is dangerous when driving but so are a lot of other things that are not policed at all. You can speed, weave all over the road, and never use an indicator but you’d have to be unlucky to ever get caught.

Of course, so let’s just give up on trying to do anything.

Hi Ross, You will NOT lose any demerits, but you may well incur some.
Demerits are a penalty for breaking a road rule, losing or getting rid of such a penalty is not possible by committing more offences.

1984 isn’t a real story? How can it be happening ‘again’?

The opening line suggested that the mobile phone detection is an alternative to some clever AI?

Are you suggesting that someone is manually looking through all the images?

Two guys walk into the bathroom do their business and go to wash their hands. Its an automated sensor, the first guy wipes hands under the tap and nothing happens. He says to the 2nd guy that its broken. The 2nd guy ignores this and waves his hands under and the water flows out.
The first guy happened to have dark coloured skin, which wasn’t tested when the device was made.

Are we suggesting that these AI camera’s will work the same irrelivant of race or gender?
What is the governments line when everyone comes out and claims that it wasn’t actually a phone they were holding but a business card or a pair of sunnies?

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