Canberra’s new mobile phone detection cameras have already identified more than 1300 offences in the space of seven days.
Between 14 and 20 February, 1306 drivers were snapped with phones or other devices in their hands while driving, according to data shared by the ACT Government’s Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) directorate.
The three cameras were wheeled out to three roadside locations on 14 February at the beginning of a $9 million, five-year deal between the ACT Government and artificial intelligence (AI) developer Acusensus.
The locations included Yamba Drive in Phillip, Canberra Avenue in Jerrabomberra and Horse Park Drive in Forde.
In the first week, Horse Park Drive had the highest offence rate of 0.79 per cent, with 602 offences detected across 75,809 passing vehicles.
Canberra Avenue was next, with 383 confirmed offences from a pool of 126,734 vehicles making for an offence rate of 0.30 per cent.
Yamba Drive identified 321 offences across 67,902 vehicles (0.47 offence rate).
The peak day for all three cameras was Wednesday, 15 February, when Horse Park Drive nearly cracked a one per cent offence rate (136 offences confirmed across 13,750 vehicles).
These locations were decided with the help of the Centre for Automotive Safety Research at the University of Adelaide, which looked into the data to find locations with a high rate of crashes or links to distraction.
Other stakeholders were also consulted on spots where vulnerable road users are at high risk, mobile device use is common, and where enforcement with existing police resources has proved difficult.
A spokesperson for the ACT Government said now the cameras are calibrated, they will be transported to “various sites across the city every few days” to keep motorists on their toes.
“As the cameras move around our city, we will be working to integrate them with existing ACT Government systems,” the spokesperson said.
“We will also be collecting data to help inform future road safety strategies such as placement of cameras and ACT Policing activities.”
To top it off, two fixed cameras will soon be installed on Hindmarsh Drive and Gungahlin Drive.
Over the past five financial years, ACT Policing has issued an average of 911 infringements and 260 cautions for using a mobile device while driving. This carries a penalty of three demerit points and a $498 fine.
For now, the 1306 drivers caught by the cameras are off the hook. Warning notices won’t be issued until the middle of this year in a grace period that extends to October when the fines start coming.
The government hasn’t ruled out more mobile phone detection cameras in a year’s time, if needed.
For now, ACT Road Policing Detective Acting Superintendent Matt Craft has a message: “You don’t need to use it, put it away, have it away from you. That one moment of distraction could lead to fatal consequences.”