Drivers using mobile phones in NSW to be caught with new cameras.

The use of mobile phones in vehicles has a history of regulation, in February 2012 the National Transport Commission amended the Australian Road Rules across states which mandated that you cannot touch a mobile phone at any time while driving or stopped in traffic, unless secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle. Since then conversation surrounding their usage – specifically the rise in usage – has been sparked by the recent rise in penalties and fines. In NSW motorists could lose their license just by touching their mobile phone, seeing the loss of 5 demerit points and a fine of $337 which makes NSW the strictest state in the country for the offence. This means that if caught on a long weekend on a mobile phone while driving a motorist can lose 10 demerit points.
Even the crew from Mythbusters ascertained that a driver under the influence of alcohol was a more responsive driver than someone who was distracted by a mobile phone behind the wheel.
This is down to the distraction that phone cause, if you take your eye off the road for 2 or more seconds your crash risk doubles. That means that “if you’re travelling at just 60km/h and look at your phone for two seconds, you will have travelled for 33 metres” (Road safety director, Samantha Cockfield). So in those few moments your eyes were on a screen rather than the road you moved far enough to not see a motorcycle, a pedestrian, or someone braking suddenly in front of you.
“Human beings have a strange fondness for engaging in behaviours they know are likely to kill them – smoking, swimming with sharks, hard drugs, eating until you can’t see your feet any more – and the seemingly irresistible habit of using a mobile phone while driving a big, deadly old motor vehicle is one of the most mystifying.” Stephen Corby – Cars Guide.
Even in the face of such startling statistics research conducted by Akshay Vij at the University of South Australia found that 1 in 3 reported rare or occasional use while 1 in 5 reported frequent use. This was found to be mostly receiving incoming calls. Additionally findings indicate that there was little difference between the usage between the ages of 18-29, while 30-39 year olds report the greatest frequency of use.
In response to this the NSW has implemented a trial program using radar-based sensor systems which automatically detect vehicles and record data. This includes photos through windscreens (both at night and day) which are automatically analysed by artificial intelligence and passed onto review by a person.
More than 300,000 drivers were caught using their mobile phones during a month-long trial of hi-tech detection cameras in New South Wales. During the course of the test in October 11,000 drivers were detected illegally using their phones.
This world-first technology will be rolled out this year (2019) by the state government.

So when can you use your phone?

For people who hold a full NSW licence, there are times when they are permitted to use their phones.
  • If a phone is secure in a cradle fixed to the car and doesn’t obscure a driver’s vision of the road, they can use it to make or answer calls, play music or other audio, and use the navigation system.
  • Drivers can also use the device for the first two purposes without a cradle, so long as the phone can be activated without being touched, like through Bluetooth or voice activation.
  • The only time a motorist is allowed to hold a phone is if they are passing it across to a passenger.
“Drivers are reminded that using a mobile phone legally can still be distracting and should always consider the current road conditions before using a mobile phone while driving.”

So that leaves when you can’t?

  • If you don’t have a cradle for your phone or you can’t activate it without touching it then there is no way to legally use your device while on the road.
  • Actions such as emailing, texting, taking photos, video messaging, using social media or even just touching a mobile are illegal while driving.
  • If a driver or rider is waiting at traffic lights or stuck in traffic, it is still not legal for them to hold their phones.
  • Even if a motorist has their phone in a cradle fitted to their vehicle, they are not able to send a text message.
  • If a motorist wishes to do any of these things then they are required to be parked out of the line of traffic.

Further Reading and Sources:

Why you really shouldn't use your mobile phone while driving
Harsh new penalties for drivers enforced from today — what you need to know
NSW Drivers caught using mobile phones risk losing more demerit points
New cameras detect thousands of drivers a day using their mobile phone behind the wheel