NSW to crack down on distracted driving in world first

NSW is set to become the first state in the world to roll out roadside cameras that can detect illegal mobile phone use while driving.

The NSW Government will spend $88 million installing fixed and portable (trailer-mounted) mobile phone detection cameras at 45 locations across the state by the end of the year.

Unlike speed cameras, there will be no warning signs of the cameras' locations with the government acknowledging that they want the element of surprise to catch offenders. 

The world first camera roll-out follows a six-month pilot which checked 8.5 million vehicles and busted more than 100,000 drivers using their phones illegally. In 2018, the NSW government changed legislation to pave the way for the use of the cameras.

Minister for Roads Andrew Constance said that some people in the community still aren’t getting the message about the risk of distracted driving.

“Unfortunately, some people haven’t received the message and think they can continue to put the safety of themselves, their passengers and the community at risk without consequence,” Mr Constance said.

“There is strong community support for more enforcement to stop illegal mobile phone use with 80 per cent of people we surveyed supporting use of the mobile phone detection cameras.”

Drivers caught using their phones while driving will receive a warning letter for the first three months of the program to reinforce the ‘get your hands off it’ message. If drivers are caught offending after that, they will cop a $344 fine and five demerit points.

The program has the goal of performing 135 million vehicle checks annually by 2023.

Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole said the cameras will crack down on drivers illegally using their mobile phones.

“The decision to pick up your phone can have fatal consequences. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving on a busy city motorway or on an isolated road in the bush – there’s just no excuse for using your phone illegally,” Mr Toole said.

“Independent modelling has shown that these cameras could prevent around 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years.”

Distracted driving continues to pose an alarming risk to all road users. 

Modelling by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has predicted that road deaths will increase by 14% and serious injuries will increase by 25% by 2030 if we don’t urgently address illegal mobile phone use.

Using technologies to stop distracted driving 

Bicycle Network has been campaigning to stamp out distracted driving for many years. We believe that if we're going to successfully change behaviour we need an approach that involves increased penalties, education and new technologies.

See our campaign to end distracted driving

Recently, we made a submission on distracted driving to the National Transport Commission calling for eight key recommendations. 

  1. The rapid roll out of hi-tech traffic camera technologies and legal reforms that make it easier for police to enforce distracted driving laws.
  2. A national advertising campaign to highlight the kinds of distracted driving and their consequences.
  3. Higher penalties for distracted driving with consistency across states and territories.
  4. Fast-track in-vehicle mobile phone blocking technologies and its mandated implementation across all new vehicles sold in Australia.
  5. In-built opt-out ‘Do not disturb while driving’ apps automatically activated in all smartphones sold in Australia.
  6. Implement autonomous vehicle technology in all new cars sold in Australia.
  7. Establish a national crash database to track the causes of crashes and the impact of distracted driving.
  8. Research into the motivations of distracted driving with a focus on smartphone use.

Read our full submission

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