Australian police could soon implement new roadside cameras that can catch you doing more than just speeding.
According to an investigation by Wheels magazine, authorities across Australia are developing “intrusive cameras” that can catch drivers using their mobile phones, to counter the rise in smartphone use at the wheel.
It is in response to a damning statistic that shows distracted drivers made up almost one in three serious crashes or fatalities on our roads.
The report claims the Western Australia Road Safety Commission will soon implement three different models including mobile, fixed and high-riding police vehicles with cameras aimed at uncovering drivers using their phones.
Meanwhile, Victoria Police, in conjunction with Telstra, is working to implement a technical initiative in the next 18 months to limit phone use in cars altogether.
The initiative comes after a Community Attitudes to Road Safety survey found that 32 per cent of Australian drivers admit to reading text messages while driving, whereas 18 per cent admit to sending a message.
But as Australian Road Safety Foundation CEO Russell White told The New Daily, the police’s strict enforcement of the policy is causing drivers to hold their phones further out of sight, which is making the offence even more dangerous.
“It’s incredibly dangerous, and having it on your lap is probably escalating the risk even further,” Mr White said.
“People have become more aware that it’s illegal to be doing it and tend to try to do it covertly, then the risk is they start to hold it lower inside the cabin and basically then they are taking their eyes off the road for much, much longer periods of time.
“Some of the latest research I’ve seen suggests you could have your eyes off the road for up to 20 seconds by doing things that way – you’re driving blind.
“It’s [mobile phone use] one of the biggest risks in terms of people’s safety on the road – for pedestrians and drivers.”
Victoria Police would not discuss their plans further, but said it was “constantly looking” at new technology to improve road safety.
“Victoria Police is constantly looking at methods to improve road safety, including assessing new or emerging technologies,” a Victoria Police spokesperson told The New Daily.
“Driving is a complex task that requires full concentration, it is not possible for a driver to be paying their full attention to the road and other road users if they divert their attention to a phone.
“Research has shown that just over 60 per cent of Victorians admit to picking up their mobile phone to talk or text sometimes when driving, so with 4.5 million drivers in Victoria it is alarming to think that over two million drivers think that it is ok to use their phones while driving.”
Laws involving mobile phone use and driving vary from state to state, but in general handling your phone is illegal, while hands-free technology such as bluetooth isn’t in the case of fully licensed drivers.
‘Technology must fix the problem’
Mr White called for mobile phone companies to prevent users from using their devices while driving, as evidence shows “there is no difference in the risk involving handheld and hands free use”.
“Technology got us into this problem in the first place, technology can help us get out of it,” he said.
But according to Apple, the iPhone creator has already developed technology to reduce the ongoing issue, with new software to be released later this year.
As part of iOS 11, Apple will introduce the Do Not Disturb While Driving setting, where the user’s iPhone can detect when you may be driving and automatically silence notifications to prevent distractions.
People trying to contact you will be able to receive an automated response to let them know they are driving and cannot respond until they arrive at their destination.
However, users will not be forced to implement the new addition as people must turn it on first.