How many motorists have been caught so far committing this offence?
With the approval and implementation of approximately 45 fixed and mobile cameras across New South Wales on December 1, thousands of drivers have been caught using their phone behind the wheel. Over 3,300 offending motorists have been caught illegally using their mobile phone across NSW, and over 770,000 vehicles were checked by the cameras. Due to a grace period of three months, offending motorists won’t receive a fine or lose any demerit points, they will only receive a letter warning them that they have been caught and reminding them that using a mobile phone behind the wheel is illegal.
This new technology was trialed between January and June of 2019. Out of the 8,000,000 vehicles that were checked by the AI-cameras, over 100,000 drivers were caught red-handed using their mobile phone while behind the wheel. The plan is to expand the operation progressively and to be scanning 135 million vehicles each year by 2023.
Unlike with the use of speed cameras in NSW, there will not be warning signs used to warn motorists of the presence of cameras. This is despite a pushback by NRMA, claiming that drivers deserve the right to know where these cameras are in place and not just to be receiving a fine in the mail several weeks later.
What is the penalty for drivers committing this traffic offence?
The grace period whereby drivers caught by the new technology will only be given a warning letter will end at the beginning of March 2020. After this period, drivers that are caught by the AI-cameras can expect to receive a fine of $344 and a deduction of five demerit points. If the offending motorist is caught using their phone behind the wheel in a school zone, they will face a harsher fine of $457. These penalties are the doubled up over double demerit point periods. The Christmas and New Year period will have double demerit point penalties in place to punish offending drivers and in an attempt to reduce the death toll on the roads and preventable injuries caused by reckless driving.
What is the purpose of these cameras and how do they catch offending drivers?
The new AI-camera technology captures high definition images of what is happening in the front seat of a vehicle as it drives past. The images are then reviewed by artificial intelligence to see whether the driver of the vehicle is using their mobile phone. The technology can still detect whether the driver is using their phone whether it’s dark, if the weather conditions are poor or at high speeds (up to 300km/h). Before a penalty is issued, an authorised employee will review the images captured by the AI-camera if the system flags it. Strict processes and controls are in place to ensure that the data and captured images are stored securely by the NSW government.
Does the grace period apply to drivers caught by police or could they lose their driver licence?
Despite there being a grace period for motorists caught using their phone behind the wheel by the AI-cameras, NSW Police will still continue to penalise drivers that are illegally using their mobile phones whilst driving. This means drivers face fines, loss of demerit points, and in certain situations, the loss of their driver licence.