New cameras targeting driver distraction one step closer

New legislation will be introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly today to pave the way for the rollout of mobile device detection cameras on Canberra’s roads.

Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services Chris Steel will introduce the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Amendment Bill 2021, improving safety on our roads by enabling the use of the new cameras.

“The risks of using a mobile device while driving are significant and undeniable,” Minister Steel said.

“Research shows that drivers who text, browse or email on a mobile device while driving are 10 times more likely to crash. Driving while using your mobile device is as dangerous as drink driving, yet every day too many Canberrans put themselves and others at risk by doing it.”

In 2020, ACT Policing issued 1,008 infringement notices and 190 cautions for mobile device use while driving. The actual incidence of this behaviour is believed to be far higher.

“The ACT Government had committed to deliver the mobile device detection cameras as part of our commitment to Vision Zero.

“This ambitious agenda recognises that deaths and serious injuries on our roads are preventable if we take the right steps to promote safe driving and improve road infrastructure.”

The new cameras will help Canberra drivers develop safer behaviours by significantly increasing the risk of being caught and penalised for using a mobile device while driving.

Once the cameras are in place, the existing penalties will apply regardless of whether an offence is detected by a police officer or a camera.

This includes a maximum court fine of 20 penalty units or an infringement notice penalty of $480 and 3 demerit points for drivers who use their hand-held mobile device to make or receive a call.

The penalty for a driver who uses a mobile device for messaging, social networking, a mobile app or accessing the internet is a maximum court fine of 20 penalty units or an infringement notice penalty of $589 and 4 demerit points.

“These penalties reflect the seriousness of the conduct and the potential risk associated with this dangerous behaviour,” Minister Steel said.

Canberrans need to be aware that if they use their mobile devices while driving, there will be a very real chance of being caught, and a very serious penalty involved.”

Key safeguards have been included in the Bill to protect the privacy of Canberrans. Each photo taken by the cameras will be reviewed by artificial intelligence to identify whether a possible offence has been captured.

If the system does not identify any offence, the photo will be rapidly deleted. This means people will never view the majority of images captured.

Similarly, images of any front seat passengers in a vehicle will be blurred out when these are reviewed. The cameras do not capture and passengers in the rear of the vehicle.

Following passage of the legislation, the mobile device detection cameras are expected to commence operation in late 2021 or early 2022 depending on procurement outcomes.

There will be a 3-month grace period from the commencement of operations. During this time drivers that are captured infringing by the new cameras will receive a letter advising they have been detected. The letter will provide a stern warning and educate them of the risks of using a mobile device while driving.

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