Australia targets at-the-wheel phone use with cameras

Australia targets at-the-wheel phone use with cameras

Australia is to consider introducing potentially “game-changing” automated camera technology to identify drivers who use their mobile phone while driving.

The state of New South Wales (NSW) has approved a range of new powers targeting the problem of phone use behind the wheel, which remains a problem in Australia and around the world.

Backing the move, the RAC is now urging enforcement agencies here in the UK to look into what role the technology could play in the battle against reckless driving.

RAC Be Phone Smart campaign spokesman Rod Dennis says: “Motorists need to believe that using a handheld phone brings real consequences – and move on from thinking that it is just a minor momentary indiscretion that will go unpunished.”

READ MORE: New laws could ban driver distractions in autonomous cars

In the five years to 2017, Australian drivers illegally using their mobiles were involved in more than 180 crashes that caused seven deaths and over 100 injuries.

Earlier this year, two police officers were critically injured when a driver became distracted by his phone and crashed into them.

In response, the Parliament of New South Wales approved the new cameras as part of a wider road safety initiative. Under new legislation, both existing speed cameras and specialised new cameras will be allowed to detect mobile phone use by drivers.

The technology will initially be introduced on a trial basis, but is eventually expected to become permanent and country-wide.


The RAC’s Mr Dennis says the issue of illegal phone use has long since become a “global problem”.

In Britain, mobile phone use behind the wheel remains a huge concern, with many drivers still flouting the law.

Earlier this year, research by RAC Business found that 19% of companies admit their employees had been involved in an accident while using a handheld phone.

“We very much support police forces’ regular enforcement campaigns that help send a message to offending drivers that the law is not on their side,” Mr Dennis said.

“At the same time we know that forces up and down the country are under pressure, and with the best will in the world will never be able to catch every motorist.

“So new technology, such as that proposed by the New South Wales government, could be a game-changer in the UK. If proven to be accurate in detecting illegal use, it could really help shift behaviour and, in turn, save lives. We would encourage enforcement agencies here to look into what role it could play.”

Copyright Press Association 2018. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.