Victoria will go ahead with a $33.7 million investment in roadside cameras that can detect distracted driving after a trial found one in 42 people were using a mobile phone while behind the wheel.
The three-month trial began in July 2020, during Victoria's heaviest coronavirus restrictions, with two portable cameras assessing 679,438 vehicles at a number of metropolitan and regional locations.
The highest rates of distracted driving were on busy and arterial roads in Melbourne's fringe including:
- Craigieburn Road East in Wollert with a one-in-18 offence rate
- Calder Park Drive in Hillside with a one-in-21 offence rate
- Old Geelong Road in Laverton with a one-in-28 offence rate
No infringement notices were handed out to drivers during the trial phase, however once the full set of cameras are in force fines will be dished out similar to that of roadside speed cameras.
Bicycle Network welcomes Victoria joining other states in introducing cameras that can detect distracted driving and is not surprised at the high rate of phone use detected during the trial.
People riding bikes have an easy view inside cars and regularly see eyes pointed down at screens, with a 2019 survey of Bicycle Network members and bike riders finding 35.7 per cent of bike riders see distracted driving every time they ride.
This is why police usually ride bicycles when enforcing mobile phone use as they can see more than they could if they too were driving a car.
The mobile phone cameras will make it easier for police to enforce distracted driving on arterial roads, such as those listed above, however there would still be benefits if cops on bikes patrolled streets with high numbers of pedestrians and bike riders.
Drivers who use a mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to cause a fatal road crash. Research from Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) has estimated this technology has the capacity to prevent 95 casualty crashes per year.
The cameras will be rolled on to roads by 2023, with stakeholder consultation, demos and awareness campaigns to happen first.
The cameras use an artificial intelligence-enabled system to capture high-resolution images of passing vehicles in all traffic and weather conditions – day and night. Images that are deemed likely to contain a mobile phone offence are then verified by appropriately trained personnel. The cameras are also able to detect if seatbelts are not being used.