Mobile phone detection cameras will be rolled out at the start of next year after new laws passed the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (22 June).
Canberrans have been warned that if they use their phone while driving they will be caught, with Transport Minister Chris Steel reiterating just how dangerous being distracted while driving can be.
“Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles the risk of a crash, with mobile phones too often being the source of that distraction,” Mr Steel said.
“A driver who looks at their phone for just two seconds while driving at 60 kilometres an hour travels 33 metres blind.
“We want Canberrans to understand that any time you take your eyes off the road to use your mobile phone while driving, you are risking your own life and the lives of other road users.”
The exact number of cameras are yet to be determined as the government continues with the procurement process, but Mr Steel confirmed there would be both static and mobile cameras to detect phone usage on ACT roads.
General signs warning drivers about the cameras will be placed around the ACT, but no specific signs or notice will be given to drivers about where the cameras will be located or when they are approaching one.
Drivers will still be able to use their phone’s Bluetooth connection and phone holders to use a phone’s GPS but will not be able to hold their phone or pass their phone to a passenger to use.
Drivers will have a three-month grace period once the cameras are operational. During that time, drivers caught by the cameras will be issued a warning but no fine.
The cameras will use AI to capture drivers using phones, but all infringements will then be checked by a person before being issued to ensure accuracy.
Privacy measures will be in place, including rapidly and permanently deleting all images that do not capture evidence of mobile phone usage, as well as defined use and disclosure of images that must be securely protected and encrypted.
More than 1000 infringement notices and 190 cautions were issued by ACT Policing for mobile phone offences in 2020.
Superintendent Corey Heldon said the cameras would not mean a reduction in ACT Policing officer numbers on the road.
“[The mobile detection cameras] are a complement to the work that we are doing and it is a further deterrent strategy for road safety in the ACT,” she said.
“It is a good news story for safety on ACT roads.”
The fine in the ACT for touching your phone while in control of a motor vehicle is $447 and four demerit points. If the driver is using the mobile for social media or the internet, the fine goes up to $588 with a loss of four demerit points.
In NSW, mobile phone detection cameras came into operation in December 2019.