A New South Wales Police spokesman told news.com.au that officers currently “use a variety of methods to detect drivers using their phones while driving”.
“Line-of-site, by trained officers is the primary method of detection, however, long-ranged cameras have been used with success, and helmet cameras in motorcycle police continue to be used,” the spokesman said.
But that technology could soon be replaced by stationary cameras that automatically issue an infringement notice without the driver even realising they’ve been sprung.
NSW Police Highway Patrol boss, Assistant Commissioner Mick Corboy, told the Nine News there were “emerging technologies coming out”.
“So the way we are going to defeat this is by video evidence, by photographic evidence and we are looking at everything possible around the world at the moment and we think we’ll get something in place fairly quickly,” Mr Corboy said.
His comments came after NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey put out a call on Tuesday for potential providers to present “practical, technology-based solutions to address the problem” of mobile phone use in cars.
“Developing this technology would be a world-first and is one of the priorities of our Road Safety Plan 2021 that we announced,” Mrs Pavey said.
As part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, the NSW Government outlined its plans to implement legislative changes to allow camera technology to enforce mobile phone use offences.
Mrs Pavey said the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety) Bill 2018 was introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly on March 6, 2018. NSW is the first jurisdiction to introduce such legislation in Australia.
Last year, NSW Police handed out about 42,000 fines to drivers caught on their mobile phones, with the distraction increasingly emerging as a factor in fatal crashes over the past decade.
In February this year, serial texter Jakob Thornton, was allegedly engrossed in his phone when he ploughed into a roadside breath test in southwest Sydney, seriously injuring two officers.
According to National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) Manager Jerome Carslake, the most common causes of road fatalities and car accidents occasioning serious harm are fatigue, speed, distraction (including mobile phones), and alcohol or drugs.
During the 12 months ending in February 2018, there were 1249 road deaths across Australia. That was a 0.2 per cent decrease compared to the total for the 12-month period ending February 2017.
In 2016, 1300 lives were lost on roads nationwide, which was an increase of nearly 8 per cent on the previous year (1205).
Mr Corboy said in a statement earlier this month that too many people made “poor decisions” while driving. “Every fatal crash is a tragedy for not only those involved, but for the families they leave behind,” he said.
“The most frustrating part about it is that most crashes are preventable if people slow down and take responsibility on our roads.”
In NSW, motorists caught using a mobile phone while driving can be slapped with a $330 fine and a loss of four demerit points, regardless of whether they’re repeat offenders or not.
The Australian Capital Territory has some of the toughest laws in the country, with a fine of $528 and loss of four demerit points for a driver caught texting or using social media behind the wheel.