INNOVATIVE new technology will be trialled in various Victorian locations from this week, in what could become a new tool to crack down on distracted drivers.
The state-of-the-art road safety cameras are able to detect drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel, as well as detect other offences such as failing to wear a seatbelt.
The three-month trial will be conducted in 11 regional and metropolitan locations across the state from Wednesday, though the state government would not disclose exactly where the trial sites will be.
The trial, which will see trailer-mounted cameras distributed across the trial sites, will test the accuracy and effectiveness of the technology and if it can be integrated with existing road safety camera systems and rolled out across the state.
The technology uses artificial intelligence to assess photographs to detect illegal driver behaviour behind the wheel.
Research reveals that a person using a mobile phone while driving is four times more likely to be the cause of a fatal road accident.
A driver sending a text, browsing the internet or sending an email is the most dangerous, with data indicating they are up to ten times more likely to cause a fatal road accident.
In the year 2017-18, more than 30,000 Victorians were issued a fine for using their mobile phone while driving.
With statistics indicating that up to 11 per cent of road fatality crashes involving drivers and riders are linked to distraction, the technology could be implemented to crack down on distraction offences in a move which could reduce the number of lives lost on Victorian roads.
The technology is already being rolled out across Australia. Last year the New South Wales government conducted a world-first trial with the technology – which was closely monitored in Victoria. It has now been rolled out across the state.
A similar trial will also be conducted in Queensland from this week.
The Victorian trial – to be undertaken by Melbourne-based provider Acusensus and the current traffic camera services contractor – follows the trial in NSW as well as research conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre.
MUARC estimated an automated mobile phone enforcement camera program could prevent about 95 casualty crashes per year – saving taxpayers $21 million each year.
If introduced in Victoria, the cameras will be able to capture high-resolution images from any location around-the-clock.
The cameras can operate in any weather condition or lighting level, with the images able to be reviewed in real time – meaning more drivers would be caught out if the technology were to be rolled out statewide.
No infringements will be issued during the trial.
Number plate matching will not be undertaken, while all photographs captured will be deleted except for some images which will be de-identified.
Police and Emergency Services minister, Lisa Neville, said distracted drivers could have devastating outcomes and the technology was a step to keep road users safe.
“We all have a role to play in reducing our road toll – every time someone picks up their phone behind the wheel they are putting lives in danger.
“This technology will detect those who choose to put lives at risk on our roads.”
The state government provided more than $120 million in the 2019-20 budget to increase mobile camera enforcement by 75 per cent and to investigate new road safety camera capabilities.