ACT drivers using their mobile phones will be caught out by new cameras using artificial intelligence technology that will be introduced in the Territory in the second half of this year.
The ACT Government is setting aside $10 million for the new road safety initiative in Tuesday’s Budget.
The move is part of the government’s commitment to ‘Vision Zero’ – no deaths or serious injuries on our roads. The cameras will require legislation to be passed in the Legislative Assembly.
The new cameras can detect mobile phone device use and capture high-resolution evidence of drivers in the act, but they come with strict privacy requirements.
Images of front-seat passengers must be pixelated, and the cameras must not see into the rest of the car.
All images that do not contain evidence of a mobile device use offence will be rapidly and permanently deleted, and only the minimum amount of data required to detect and enforce offences will be retained.
There will also be defined use and disclosure of images, and they must be securely protected and encrypted.
Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said driver distraction had become a major safety issue on ACT roads, with drivers who look at their mobile phone being three times more likely to be involved in a crash, and those who text and look at emails on their mobile phone 10 times more likely to have an accident.
He said 1,008 infringement notices and 190 cautions were issued for mobile phone offences in the Territory in 2020.
Mr Steel said that road safety cameras used in conjunction with police enforcement would play a critical role in addressing high-risk behaviours on ACT roads.
“Drivers who look at their mobile phones are significantly more likely to be involved in a crash, endangering themselves, the public and other road users,” Mr Steel said.
Mr Steel said that other states where the cameras had been introduced had experienced a reduction in distraction offences.
He said the move was a significant change in technology and drivers would be given a period of time to adapt to the operation of the mobile cameras.
“The ACT Government will conduct an extensive campaign to educate the community with a three-month no-fine warning period when the cameras are first deployed,” Mr Steel said.
”During this time, warning letters will be sent to infringing drivers without penalty.
“The penalties are significant and reflect the risk that driver distraction poses to the community.”
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.
”Every accident that results in serious injury or death is a tragedy and costs the community in some way; including through heartache to family and friends, loss in productivity to our city’s economy and increased pressure on our health system,” Mr Steel said.
In NSW, mobile phone detection cameras came into operation in December 2019. They can operate in all weather conditions, including fog and wet weather.