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For All Mobile Phone Users

At last a serious move has been taken to nab the drivers using mobile phones illegally while driving.  New South Wales, Australia is the first place in the world to introduce mobile phone detection cameras, and these will be mounted without any warning signs saying that they are operating in the area.  The technology was invented by a University of Melbourne engineering graduate, Alexander Jannink, after a cyclist friend of his was killed in late 2013 by a driver suspected of being on a mobile phone.

During a three-month trial of the new camera at two locations in Sydney, 100,000 drivers were detected using a mobile phone illegally.  These motoring offences valued more than $34 million in fines.  Those caught in the trial were found to be browsing Facebook, text messaging and one driver was also caught allowing his passenger to steer the wheel.  Distracted drivers are very much a factor in motoring accidents, and placing the high-tech mounted cameras on our roads is a wonderful way to combat the habitual mobile phone actions of those who just can’t seem to leave their phone alone when behind the wheel.

It’s unsettling to notice drivers coming in the opposite direction with their eyes downward while on their phones.  The new cameras have been developed with sophisticated software that automatically detects if a driver is handling a phone.  The filtered images are then checked by a human eye before the weighty fine is issued.

I totally get what the NSW minister for roads and transport, Andrew Constance, recently remarked while on radio: “We want to create the same environment that we have around [random breath testing] because quite frankly using a mobile phone is equivalent to driving drunk behind the wheel.”  Other Australian states are to follow the NSW lead.

The law states that fully licenced drivers are not allowed to use any physical function of the phone while driving.  Making or receiving a call, playing audio, or using navigation maps can be done while the vehicle is parked and the engine not running.  Voice controlled smartphone mirroring apps such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which uses the vehicle’s infotainment technology makes things a little safer.

The reality is that nobody wants to share the road with a driver who isn’t paying attention.  When we’re driving, our focus should be on the road and getting everybody in the car to the destination safely.

Here are the mobile phone fines currently enforced in Australia:

NSW mobile phone fines: $344 and five demerit points, $457 and five demerit points in school zones, points doubled during double demerit periods.

Queensland mobile phone fines: $1000 and four demerit points from 1 February 2020, currently $400 and three points. Repeat offenders receive double demerit points if caught again within 12 months from the previous offence.

Victoria mobile phone fines: $496 and four demerit points.

Australian Capital Territory mobile phone fines: $480 three demerit points for handheld phone use, $589 and four demerit points for driver using mobile device for messaging, social networking, mobile application or accessing internet.

South Australia mobile phone fines: $554 and three demerit points.

Western Australia mobile phone fines: $400 and three demerit points.

Northern Territory mobile phone fines: $500 and three demerit points.

Tasmania mobile phone fine: $336 and three demerit points.

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