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Car driver using mobile phone
Phone distraction crackdown

The Victorian government this week launches a high-tech camera system that can detect drivers using mobile phones, and have a fine on the way in seconds.

A three-month trial starts this week, however no fine will be issued during this period.

It is puzzling why a trial is needed when these technologies are already in use in other jurisdictions.

Any bike rider on the street would regularly observe drivers using mobile phones with impunity when driving.

That is why the best method of detection is cops on bicycles because they are on the streets where riders and pedestrians are most at risk, whereas the cameras are suited to arterials and freeways where those most at risk are other drivers, probably also using mobile phones illegally.

In 2017-18 more than 30,000 motorists were issued with fines for using a mobile phone while driving in Victoria. Drivers and motorcyclists involved in distraction-related crashes may make up at least 11 per cent of road fatalities.

The government says drivers who use a mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to cause a fatal road crash.

Texting, browsing and emailing increase the crash risk even further—up to ten times.

The trial will ensure the technology operates accurately and is appropriate for use on Victorian roads before a potential rollout.

The cameras allow high-resolution images to be captured in all conditions, regardless of weather and light levels, and for those images to be reviewed in real time to detect potential offences.

If formally introduced to Victorian roads, the technology will be able to operate from any location, 24 hours a day, in all conditions.

"Testing will focus on a relocatable version of the technology across several metropolitan and regional locations and will be conducted by the technology provider, Acusensus, and the current traffic camera services contractor,” the announcement said.

"As well as capturing drivers illegally using their mobile phones while driving, the cameras will be tested for possible future use to crack down on other dangerous driver behaviour on Victorian roads, including not wearing a seatbelt.

"No infringements will be issued during the pilot and number plate matching will not be undertaken. All photographs captured will be deleted, except for a limited number of de-identified images.

"The trial will help understand how the technology can be integrated with the existing road safety camera systems and ensure the cameras operate effectively and accurately, so fines issued under a full rollout are appropriate."

Minister for Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said: “We know how dangerous it is to use your phone while driving—that’s why we’re trialling this new technology to help stamp out this irresponsible behaviour.”

See our distracted driving campaign

Bicycle Network has long campaigned for tougher legislation and enforcement of distracted driving.

A survey of members and bike riders in 2019 found that 35.7 per cent of people see distracted driving every time they ride a bike.

A submission made by Bicycle Network to the National Transport Commission recommended the roll out of camera technology to enforce distracted driving rules.

See our campaign

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

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