A legislation passed in NSW will allow police to use high resolution cameras to detect drivers using their mobile phones while driving. Will this increase safety or increase revenue? Is privacy an issue with this new technology?

New Camera Technology

A June 2018 NSW legislation enables the use of camera technology to detect mobile phone usage while driving.  A pilot using two fixed cameras was conducted earlier this year in Sydney, on the M4 and on Anzac Pde. Another pilot using a portable version of the high resolution camera was conducted between April and June 2019. (Source: Transport NSW Centre for Road Safety)

The new camera technology allows it to capture high resolution images of the front cabin of all passing vehicles. It can capture hi-res images of both the driver and the front seat passenger, can operate day and night, in any speed and in any weather condition. 

Captured images will be processed by an automated artificial intelligence system, which will detect offending drivers. These images will then be reviewed by authorized personnel for further action. Images of non-offending drivers will presumably be excluded by the automated system from further processing.

A staggering number of 11,000 drivers have been photographed by the cameras using their mobile phones during testing in October 2018!

Revenue, Privacy and Safety

The penalty in NSW for using a mobile phone while driving is $337 and 5 demerit points. So there’s no doubt the usage of the new technology will increase revenue from penalties. More drivers being caught, more $ for the state.

There are also privacy concerns associated with this new technology. Should the government be allowed to pry on drivers when they are in their vehicles? And what about professional drivers, such as truck drivers, taxi drivers and couriers, who’s vehicles are their “workplace”? Does the use of the new camera technology conflicts with the NSW Workplace Surveillance Act (2005) which restricts surveillance in the workplace?

Well, in my view both the revenue issue and the privacy concerns are secondary to the main objective here: we need to stop drivers using their mobile phones when driving. These reckless drivers are causing injuries and deaths with their irresponsible behaviour. So removing the distraction can save lives. This is far more important than getting some privacy in your vehicle while you’re driving. Dead road users (motorbike riders, drivers and pedestrians) had their right to live taken away from them, so why is the “privacy” of a reckless driver (or any driver) more important?

Motorbike riders are more vulnerable than car drivers and suffer far greater consequences from the irresponsible behaviour of reckless drivers. In my previous post I have expressed my view on getting reckless drivers off our roads. Personally, I wholly support the actions taken by the state to address these road safety issues, especially mobile phone usage while driving. New camera technology, greater fines, suspension of licenses or whatever it takes in order to make our roads safer.