Australia's New South Wales state rolls out mobile phone detection cameras

In this photo captured by a mobile phone detection camera and released by Transport for New South Wales, a driver is seen using a mobile phone while driving in Australia. PHOTO: AP

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - The Australian state of New South Wales, home to the country's largest city Sydney, rolled out mobile phone detection cameras on Sunday (Dec 1), hoping to cut the number of fatalities on its roads by a third over two years, transport authorities said.

The cameras operate day and night in all weather conditions to determine if a driver is handling a mobile phone, according to Transport for NSW, which manages the state's transport services.

"It's a system to change the culture," NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy told Australian media last week.

Making or receiving voice calls while driving in NSW is legal, but only when using a hands-free device. All other functions, such as video calling, using social media and photography, are illegal while behind the wheel.

So far this year, 329 people have died on NSW roads, compared with 354 people for all of 2018, according to official statistics. The state wants to cut the number of road fatalities by 30 per cent by 2021.

The mobile phone detection cameras use artificial intelligence to review images and detect illegal use of the devices, Transport for NSW said in a statement.

Images that the automated system identifies as likely to contain a driver illegally using a mobile phone are verified by authorised personnel.

For the first three months after the detection systems are in operation, offending drivers will be issued warning letters.

After that, the penalty will be a A$344 (S$318) standard fine and a A$457 fine in a school zone. In both cases, drivers will also receive penalty points.

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