Australia Deploys Cameras to Find Drivers Using Their Smartphones

Australia is fining drivers as much as $457 if they use their phone behind the wheel.

Driving while texting is to blame for countless car accidents, some of which lead to death and destruction. 

According to the National Saftey Council, at least nine Americans die each day from distracted driving, while actions like using a smartphone or playing with a in-vehicle screen, are to blame for 100 injuries every day.

Australia has decided to take the lead in curbing this dangerous behavior, becoming the first country to install cameras that can catch drivers on their smartphone. 

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Offenders face a hefty fine once the grace period is lifted 

In an announcement over the weekend, the Government of New South Wales announced that as of 1 December, the government's mobile phone detection cameras are live. Driver's caught on their phone during the first three months, will receive a warning letter.

After that, its $344 per fine plus five demerit points on their driver's license. That jumps to $457 if the driver is using a smartphone in a school zone and 10 points on the license for the offender. The NWS government is aiming to check 135 million vehicles each year by 2023. 

“The decision to pick up your phone can have fatal consequences. Whether you’re driving on a major highway or an isolated road in the bush, there’s no excuse for using your phone illegally – and from Sunday, there’s a much greater chance of getting nabbed," said Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole in the news release. 

AI to scan for offenders 

In order to snap images of drivers using their smartphones, the NWS government is using a combination of fixed and mobile trailer -mounted cameras. The police are relying on AI software that can scan images for signs of use while driving. According to Engadget the NWS government will also use humans to prevent any false positives.  

The NWS government is optimistic the program will be effective in catching offenders. Executive Director of Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety Bernard Carlon said a trial earlier this year caught more than 100,000 drivers using their phones illegally. 

“Independent modelling has shown these cameras could prevent around 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years,” Carlon said. “There is strong community support for more enforcement, with 80 percent of people surveyed supporting use of detection cameras to stop illegal mobile phone use.” 

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