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On Your Phone While Driving? New AI Cameras Will Catch You

New cameras will be activated around NSW specifically targeting drivers who illegally use their mobile phones behind the wheel.

The NSW Government has been preparing to roll out the new system for some time after a six-month trial in the first half of the year snapped 100,000 drivers using their phones illegally.

The cameras -- both fixed-point and portable trailer-mounted cameras -- will be rolled out in areas across the state from December 1, in a bid to tackle drivers on the phone while behind the wheel.

According to the NRMA, more than 16,500 people have already been pinged by police for illegal phone use this year.

The NSW transport ministry said the new measures are designed to save lives -- but unlike other speed or red light cameras, the new mobile detection cameras will not include any warning signs to alert drivers ahead of time.

driving texting
Image; Getty

According to Transport for NSW, independent modelling for the program showed that signposting the location of these detection cameras would be up to 80 percent less effective, and would take five years longer to save as many lives as could be saved in just the first year without any signage. The idea is that drivers should be off their phones at all times, not just when they know a camera is nearby.

But the NRMA said while it has strongly supported the roll-out of the system, it doesn't agree with the government's decision to not warn drivers of where the cameras are located.

"The NRMA called for these cameras," spokesperson Peter Khoury told 10 daily.

"We were the first ones who raised the idea of using technology to crack down on this behaviour because it is dangerous."

Khoury believes education is an important factor in prevention, and said the NRMA's priority is to get people to put their phones down.

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"Warning signs play a really important role in educating people about the dangers of this behaviour," he said.

"As we have seen with speeding, warning signs play a really important education role and they promote transparency."

10 daily reached out to the transport ministry about why the decision has been made not to reveal the location of the cameras or to implement warning signs for drivers.

Executive director for The Centre of Road Safety, Bernard Carlon, said to truly deter people from breaking the law, offenders need to believe they could be caught anywhere on the road network at any time.

"Mobile phone use while driving is not a black spot problem. It is happening all over the road network, all the time," Carlon told 10 daily.

Instead, of warning signs, Transport NSW will use variable message signs and install fixed signs on key routes as a way of making drivers aware of camera recorded enforcement.

Image: Getty

The Centre for Road Safety has also confirmed there would be a grace period of three months for drivers caught by the new cameras. During that time, offending drivers will be issued a warning letter, before standard penalties apply.

A broadcast and social media advertising campaign will also be launched by Transport for NSW during the warning period.

But the NRMA wants enforcement and education to work together to change behaviour.

"Reminding people through the warning signs that they shouldn't have their phones anywhere near them is a part of that process," Khoury said.

How Do The Cameras Work?

The state's new high-definition cameras work by capturing images of the front-row cabin space of a vehicle to detect mobile phone use.

In what's being heralded as a world-first, artificial intelligence technology will then automatically review the images to detect offending drivers and exclude non-offending drivers from further action.

Any images which the system deems to have captured illegal phone use will then be verified by a human, before fines are sent out.

The cameras are designed to work both day and night, and in all weather conditions.

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The NRMA has praised the use of the artificial intelligence system and said the technology was a world first.

"It's something that the NRMA called for more than a year ago now," Khoury said.

Drivers caught by the new cameras will face existing mobile phone penalties,  including five demerit points and a $344 fine.

That fine will be increased to $457 if using a mobile phone in a school zone.

Double demerit points also apply during holiday periods and long-weekends where offending drivers can expect to be docked 10 points.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au