Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Max McKinney | Posted: October 28, 2019
Hunter motorists can "absolutely" expect to be targeted by the NSW government's mobile phone detection cameras this summer, Centre for Road Safety director Bernard Carlon says.
The state government is preparing to roll out 45 fixed and portable cameras across the state by December.
The cameras will record the offence of a phone being "held by, or resting on, the driver of a vehicle".
Cameras used in Sydney during a six-month trial in the first half of this year checked 8.5 million vehicles and detected almost 100,000 drivers using their phones.
The detection system, which operates both day and night and in all weather conditions, uses high-definition cameras to capture images of a vehicle's front cabin.
Artificial intelligence technology automatically reviews the images to detect offending drivers and exclude images of non-offending drivers from further action.
Images considered to contain a driver illegally using a mobile phone are then verified by authorised personnel.
But unlike speed or red-light cameras, the cameras will have no signs to warn motorists of their locations.
The government is yet to say if a certain number of cameras will be allocated for exclusive use in the Hunter, but Mr Carlon said the cameras would be deployed in the region in some capacity.
"Those transportable units will move around the network and will be visiting a road near you," he said.
"We'll have fixed locations on more higher-volume roads, but we will be doing an anywhere, anytime approach."
"I see it on the freeway, on local back roads and at just about every set of traffic lights I stop at," he said.
Mr Carlon echoed the MP's comments, describing illegal phone use by drivers in NSW as "prolific" and "everywhere, on every road".
He said cameras used on "arterial roads" in Sydney's suburbs for trials had detected double the amount of illegal activity than in the city.
"When we [used the portable cameras] and moved them around the arterial roads and lower-volume roads, like Heathcoate Road and Northern Road a bit further out of Sydney, the rate of detection went from 1.5 per cent of total vehicles to almost 3 per cent," he said.
"So it's pretty clear to us that this is an anywhere, anytime problem ... and we want to provide a deterrence right across the [road] network."
The government will issue warning letters for the first three months after the cameras begin operating.
Afterwards, the penalty for offending drivers is five demerit points and a $344 fine, or $457 in a school zone.
The demerit penalty increases to 10 points in double demerit periods.
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