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Mobile phone crackdown in NSW targets driver distraction

A mobile phone detection camera, the first in the world, will be deployed in NSW before the year is out the State Government has announced.

The crackdown comes as industry looks to reduce the amount of driver distraction related incidents including those that also affected commercial vehicles.

Safety technology provided by tech company Acusensus, during a recent six month pilot, checked 8.5 million vehicles and found more than 100,000 drivers using their phones illegally according to the NSW Government.

Minister for Roads Andrew Constance and Minister for Regional Roads Paul Toole put out a joint statement that said the illegal use of mobile phones by drivers put other members of the community at risk.

“There is strong community support for more enforcement to stop illegal mobile phone use with 80 per cent of people we surveyed supporting use of the mobile phone detection cameras,” the statement claimed.

The program will operate in warning letter mode for the first three months to reinforce the ‘get your hand off it’ message.

Subsequent offences will result in a $344 fine and loss of five demerit points.

“The decision to pick up your phone can have fatal consequences. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving on a busy city motorway or on an isolated road in the bush – there’s just no excuse for using your phone illegally,” said Toole.

“Independent modelling has shown that these cameras could prevent around 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years.”

Managing Director of Acusensus Alexander Jannink lost a friend in an accident caused by a distracted and impaired driver.

“We are committed to supporting the NSW Government's pioneering initiative to reduce the significant loss and trauma caused by illegal phone use on the road network,” he said.

“We know from the success of the pilot and other enforcement technology programs that the deployment of the Acusensus Heads-Up solution will drive behavioural change and improve the safety of road users,” said Jannink.

Road safety advocate Vicki Richardson founded the ‘Don’t-txt-n-drive’ foundation to raise awareness of driver distraction after her daughter Brooke lost her life at age 20 in a crash caused by using her phone while driving.

“Brooke was driving to work and she decided to text a client. That was the last decision she ever made. Working Towards Zero is very important to me,” she said.

NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy, said more than 16,500 people had been caught using a mobile phone while driving so far this year.

“When you drive while using a phone, your attention is not on the road, on other cars, pedestrians, or on other dangers and it poses a risk to everyone who uses the road,” he said.

“There is simply no excuse for it.”

A recent report by Queensland University of Technology has found that driver distraction is a contributing factor in 78 per cent of car crashes and 65 per cent of near crashes.

The consequences of driver distraction on the road are deadly with more than half of distractions now known to be a factor in an incident that could have been avoidable.

Logistics specialist Linfox recently heard that a rise in nose-to-tail crashes according to Phil Brooks, Chief Inspector, Stakeholder Relations Manager, NSW Police, was a consequence of mobile phone use.

The mobile phone detection camera program will be supported by a comprehensive road safety campaign including online information and public education.

The program will start later this year and progressively expand to perform 135 million vehicle checks annually by 2023.

The program will include fixed cameras and relocatable trailer-mounted versions of the technology.

According to the NSW Government, the transportable cameras will move across a network of locations statewide, targeting illegal mobile phone use anywhere, anytime.

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