The NSW Government recently announced it was introducing phone-detection cameras around the state after a successful trial earlier in 2019. The new technology uses AI to detect drivers using their phones or other touch-enabled devices illegally. Unlike speed cameras, signs won't warn you if one is in the area. Lifehacker Australia decided to see if any other states were considering similar measures and it turns out they might be.
The NSW Government recently announced it was introducing mobile phone detection cameras, which would be rolled out from late 2019 across the state. It's part of a plan to reduce fatalities by 30 per cent in two years and its trial has already been pretty effective. Here's what drivers in NSW - and other states - need to know.
The cameras are due to be introduced to NSW roads by late 2019, though a specific date is yet to be confirmed. Earlier this year in February, a trial of the new technology caught 100,000 NSW drivers using their phones illegally out of the 8.5 million vehicles detected.
During the announcement, Andrew Constance, NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, confirmed signs wouldn't warn drivers about the phone detection cameras being in the area.
"We have to unfortunately use the element of surprise to get people to think 'well, I could get caught at any time'," Constance said. "I want behaviour to change and I want it changed immediately. It's not about revenue — it's about saving lives."
So what are Australia's other states and territories planning? We reached out to the appropriate authorities in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia who told us whether they were considering introducing similar measures to curb illegal mobile phone use. Here's what they had to say.
Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) confirmed mobile phone detection cameras were on the table for the state's future use.
"Earlier this year, TMR met with tech companies through a series of Technology Discovery Days to investigate software, hybrid, sensory and enforcement-based solutions," a TMR spokesperson told Lifehacker Australia.
"This included looking at cameras that can detect illegal mobile phone use."
The spokesperson confirmed the department will be watching how the technology rolls out in NSW to inform its future decisions.
"We are considering the outcomes from both the investigation into technological solutions and the summit, including the viability of camera enforcement technologies," TMR's spokesperson said.
"The New South Wales initiative is in its early stages and we will continue to watch with interest as it develops."
Victoria's Department of Justice and Community Safety told Lifehacker Australia it had invested more than $120 million in the 2019/20 state budget to curb dangerous driving. One method was by increasing mobile speed camera hours by 75 per cent but it's also looking to include mobile phone detection devices.
"As part of this investment, we are working with road safety partners to investigate the future use of new road safety technology, including mobile phone detection devices," the spokesperson confirmed.
"We will continue our engagement with NSW on the rollout of this technology as part of this work."
A spokesperson for SA's Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure told us it was also keeping an eye on how it unfolded in NSW to see if it would be viable in the state.
"The department will analyse the results of the trial in NSW to determine if these cameras will be suitable for the SA context," the spokesperson said.
Tasmania and Western Australian authorities did not respond in time for publication.
From September 2018, just touching your phone while you're driving could be enough for NSW drivers to lose their license. The number of demerit points for using a phone while driving is set to increase from four to five this year, so drivers should probably brush up on the rules around phone use while driving now.