Driving and texting in NSW? From December, you may be on camera, and you’ll be caught

Despite being illegal for a rather long time, the number of motorists still getting caught using their mobiles while driving is still really concerning. It’s selfish behaviour, if we’re being honest, because if you’re holding and paying attention to your phone, you’re not paying attention to the road – and you could injure or kill someone through your inattention.

I wouldn’t want to be on either end of that, and neither would you.

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ABC News reports that, in recognition of the continuing problem, the NSW Government has announced it will spend $88 million on fixed and portable cameras to catch out texting motorists at 45 sites across New South Wales.

Better yet, there’ll be no warning signs to alert motorists where these cameras will be. Roads Minister Andrew Constance said:

“We have to unfortunately use the element of surprise to get people to think ‘well, I could get caught at any time’.

I want behaviour to change and I want it changed immediately.

It’s not about revenue — it’s about saving lives.”

In a trial prior to the announcement, 8.5 million cars were checked, and more than 100,000 drivers were observed using their phones illegally.

For those who get caught, it won’t come cheap – penalties for mobile use while driving are $344 and five demerit points.

There will be some exemptions – which already exist in law – for drivers using Bluetooth, handling a phone only to pass it to a passenger, or using a phone while in a drive-through situation – but by and large, if you get caught, you’ll have some explaining to do.

I appreciate some people have different views here, but mine – at least – are pretty clear: if you’re driving, drive. If you need to use your phone, pull over, park legally, and go for it. Continue driving when you’re done.

You don’t want to be the one who mows down a cyclist or a pedestrian because you took your eyes off the road to use your phone.

 

Chris Rowland: @ozcjr Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

View Comments (8)

  • @Sen

    It's likely they'll start to use drones - they have drones in various US cities now that sit up in the sky for 24+ hours at a time, with the high-resolution footage watched in real-time and then used for dispatching purposes... Being so high up, these drones can apparently watch most of the city all at once (because obviously, the higher you are, the bigger the area you can capture).

    I read an article about it a while back, and another one just a week or two ago that said Victoria Police are going to trial the same type of drones... With usage times like that - alongside high-resolution footage that is streamed to a control center somewhere on the ground - I'd hate to see the price-tag!

    And whilst I can see the appeal of such drones, it is uncomfortable to know that "big brother" is watching 24 hours a day, irrespective of whether you're doing anything or not...

  • fair enough. be interesting to see if they ever move to drones to capture this sort of activity on freeways etc...

  • Not tough enough, particularly given that the experts have repeatedly shown that using a cell phone whilst driving can be just as dangerous as driving whilst intoxicated - and the number of accidents / deaths as a direct result of cell phone usage whilst driving speak for themselves.

    Clearly no one is getting the message - if I was given just 50¢ for every driver I saw using their cell phone here on the Gold Coast each day, I'd OWN most of the Gold Coast by now - so they need to get tougher and really drive the message home.

    It should be a nasty, B-I-G fine the first time you get caught... And automatic loss of license for 12 months months the second time around.

    Like driving whilst intoxicated, you're never going to completely stop people from using their cell phones whilst driving - but if you actually start to get tough on it, you're going to reduce the numbers drastically.

    But who am I kidding?

    Australia might be infamous for being the Western "surveillance state", but when it comes to punishing crimes, it's a slap on the wrist for even the most serious crimes...

  • Parking legally means removing the keys from the ignition. Just pulling over and stopping with the engine running or even just the keys in the ignition is enough to be ticketed.

    • The wording of the regulations (at least in NSW) would seem to disagree with this interpretation. Stopping on the side of the road probably isn't enough, but if you're pulled over out of the line of traffic, in park (for an auto) with the handbrake on, you're likely to be considered parked for the purposes of the road rules. This is what the NSW govt suggests in its somewhat unclear advice.

      Turning the engine off probably isn't required, but I'd like to see some definitive guidance here.

      • Oh this is interesting. In WA, you have to have the engine off if you engage with your phone. There's no interpretation, touching phone = engine off, or fine.

      • You have to have the engine off to be legally parked, which you can do with a keyless ignition just fine. That's the rules.