Victoria Police are calling for legal reforms to pave the way for the use of high-tech cameras to photograph and fine drivers using mobile phones.
Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer said there was a “gobsmacking” 13 per cent increase in offending in the past year which mirrored the growing use of social media applications.
“We have people who are taking selfies of themselves with their kids in the back seat, we’ve got people watching movies, we’ve got people responding to social media applications,” he said.
“With the rise of social media we’ve seen the offending change from a mobile phone to the ear to the mobile phone in the lap.”
He said a recent survey found 60 per cent of Victorians admitted to using a phone while driving in the past year.
New laws in New South Wales this year have given police the power to issue fines to drivers based on photos from new traffic cameras.
Only catching ‘a drop in the ocean’
Under current laws in Victoria, police have to prove who was driving in order to secure the penalty of four demerit points or a $476 fine.
This meant police were only able to fine 30,000 Victorians in the past year, a figure Assistant Commissioner Fryer said was only a “drop in the ocean”.
“The way it stands at the moment, we would need to do an investigation into every image that’s captured,” he said.
“We would need to find the registered owner, and then make inquiries as to who was driving the vehicle at the particular time, and that’s not feasible with the way our current structures are.”
The introduction of “strict liability” laws would reverse the onus of proof onto drivers, which Assistant Commissioner Fryer said would make it easier for Victoria to follow NSW in cracking down on mobile phone use.
“The idea that we would have legislation that allows strict liability on mobile phone use, I think it’s something that we need to explore with government… and we have discussed it with government.”
The State Government has been contacted for comment.