UPDATED 1/12 - NSW law enforcers have activated the first batch of mobile phone detection cameras in undisclosed locations throughout the state.
The cameras, which were developed in Australia and are the first of their kind in the world, have been on trial for almost 12 months.
Ten fixed and transportable cameras will commence operating at locations across the state, according to Transport for NSW.
"Coupled with ongoing enforcement by NSW Police, these cameras will target illegal mobile phone use anywhere, anytime," read a statement from the government body.
Warning letters relating to camera-detected offences will be issued for the first three months, but the penalty for offending drivers will increase from four to five demerit points (from a total of 12), while a $344 fine ($457 in a school zone) will also be applied.
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The penalty jumps to 10 demerit points during double-demerit periods.
Almost 1000 drivers a day were being captured using their mobile phones while behind the wheel during the phone detection camera trial in Sydney.
Incredibly, all of the drivers were sprung at just two locations, on the M4 motorway at Prospect and at Anzac Parade, Moore Park.
According to 9News, the high-resolution cameras captured 20,125 cases of illegal phone use in the first 25 days after the trial began on January 7.
These included a driver holding a phone in each hand, and appearing to text on one of them while lightly holding to the steering wheel with his other hand.
Another image showed a driver with both hands on his smartphone held close to his face, while his passenger held on to the steering wheel (below).
The cameras also captured a woman with both hands on her phone while the steering wheel remained untouched.
Luckily for them, no fines were issued during the three-month trial.
If each driver detected so far was slapped with a $337 infringement, those two cameras alone would have earned the state $6.8 million over just 25 days.
The system uses high-resolution cameras to snap photos of each car, with artificial intelligence then sorting through each image to see if a phone is being used by the driver.
The cameras are said to work in both day and night time, in poor weather, and can detect vehicles travelling at up to 300km/h.
A human operator then validates images that indicate a positive result.
Unless NSW drivers change their behaviour the state government is expected to reap a significant windfall with the new technology.
Last financial year, around 40,000 fines were issued for illegal mobile phone use without the benefit of the cameras. Interestingly 30- to 39-year-old drivers were the main offenders, receiving more than a quarter (11,695) of the fines.
But the NSW Department of Roads and Maritime Services insists that the cameras are not about revenue raising.
“74 per cent of the NSW community support the use of cameras to enforce mobile phone offences. I strongly believe this technology will change driver behaviour and save lives,” said the minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey.
Both Western Australia and Victoria are also examining phone-detecting camera technology – though not necessarily the same tech adopted by NSW, which is developed by Australian start-up Acusensus.