You cannot hide your phone anymore
By Yavin Kumar @ Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers
It is becoming more and more common to witness and hear about people being caught by the police as a result of improper use of mobile phones whilst driving. Whether we would like to admit it or not, most of us have illegally used a mobile phone at some point whilst on the road. It goes without saying that such behaviour constitutes dangerous driving, and can place your own, and the lives of others, at grave risk.
It was recently reported that a 22-year-old driver was allegedly distracted by his mobile phone when his vehicle ran through a random breath test (RBT) bay which was set up in South-West Sydney during the evening of Friday, 16 February 2018. The driver’s vehicle collided with two police officers who were conducting tests in the area, which resulted in one of the officers having to undertake emergency surgery to amputate a part of his leg. The other officer also sustained serious injuries and was transported to Liverpool hospital for further treatment.
Court documents outline that the offender had been travelling at a speed of 60 km/h and had been looking at his phone for 10 to 20 seconds when he crashed into the police officers. He was charged with dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm, causing harm by misconduct in charge of a motor vehicle, negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, and using a mobile phone when not permitted. The offender was refused bail.
This event has caused further commotion regarding the Government’s proposed plans to introduce mobile traffic cameras which will be able to detect illegal mobile phone use on New South Wales roads. The New South Wales Government is currently in the process of planning a series of tough new penalties to combat drink driving offences and illegal use of mobile phones whilst driving, amongst other major traffic offences, which will include heavy fines and on-the-spot licence suspensions, in a bid to reduce the road toll of approximately 400 deaths in 2017.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also announced that the State Government will also investigate changing the law so that roadside safety cameras, which are currently being used to detect speeding, red light and bus lane offences, will also be able to be used to detect people on their mobile phones while driving, although the technology will undergo a trial before it is properly implemented. The Premier commented that “distraction is a huge concern in relation to deaths on our roads, and that is a trend that is continuing”.
Labelled as a “world first”, trials of these new mobile phone detection cameras have already been conducted in both Victoria and New South Wales. Road safety advocate Russel White has commented that drivers will go to “extraordinary” lengths to disguise the use of their phones whilst driving, although the use of these new cameras ensure that there really is no place to hide – if you are using a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel, you will be caught.
Within a 12-hour testing period in Sydney, 418 drivers were snapped using their phones whilst driving. Similarly, 270 drivers were detected using a mobile phone within a 5-hour testing period on the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne. In 2016, more than 38,000 people were caught using a mobile phone whilst driving – if the Government approves the use of these new detection cameras, this figure will surely increase exponentially.
I believe that the introduction and trial of mobile-use detection cameras is a great step forward in the ongoing battle towards decreasing the number of road deaths that occur on New South Wales roads every year. The use of such cameras is an effective response from the State Government towards culling a dangerous habit which will no doubt become even more commonly observed on our roads, as our society moves further into the new age of technology.
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