Victoria is to set to introduce mobile seat belt detection and cameras in its suburbs with $555 (mobile usage) and $370 (seatbelt) fines set to become the norm.

    Using the same technology deployed in states like Queensland and New South Wales, the Victorian government says the expansion of the automated detection system will curb the dangerous habit of using mobile phones while driving.

    The Victorian Government has confirmed an investment of $33.7 million in the rollout. It previously trialed portable mobile phone and seat belt detection cameras in 2020.

    The higher fines come into effect from March 31, 2023.

    MORE: Victoria cracking down on phones, smartwatches, tablets in the car

    The cameras capture high-resolution images of drivers using their mobile phones while behind the wheel. According to the manufacturer, the cameras work in all conditions, including low light environments and with vehicles travelling at high speeds.

    The Victorian Government will initially offer a three-month grace period by issuing warnings to driver’s caught on camera without a seat belt or using a mobile phone but will then send out $555 tickets and four points for mobile phone usage and $370 fine and three-point tickets for seatbelt infringements.

    The mobile and seat belt detection cameras are designed by ASX-listed company Acusensus and captured 170,000 Queenslanders across a 12-month period last year, generating the state $159 million in fine revenue.

    Transport for NSW has confirmed that, of all the vehicles monitored between March 2020 to December 2022, there was a non-compliance rate of 0.19 per cent which resulted in 497,000 fines being issued for camera-detected mobile phone offences.

    According to the NSW Government, the fine issuance percentage has dropped significantly since the introduction of the system.

    Transport for NSW is aiming to have 45 mobile detection cameras by end of this year, which it estimates will screen 135 million vehicles each year for mobile phone use.

    A relatively new technology, all fines are initially identified by a pattern recognition AI which looks for phone-sized objects in the driver compartment as well as signs of seat belt. Before any fine is officially sent out, an actual human has to approve the process.

    Given the system takes a photo of every single vehicle that comes within sight, critics have raised concerns about privacy issues and the potential for false positives, as has been the case in both QLD and NSW with toy phones and other objects.

    The mobile detection camera rollout in Victoria is the latest in a series of measures taken by Australian states to tackle the issue of distracted driving.

    In New South Wales, the penalty for improper mobile phone use while driving is five demerit points and a $362 fine ($481 in a school zone). In QLD drivers face the biggest fine of all, at $1,078 with 4 demerit points. This goes to eight demerit points for second or subsequent mobile phone offences committed within one year after an earlier offence.

    Alborz Fallah

    Alborz is the founder of CarAdvice (sold to Nine and now Drive) and co-founder of CarExpert. He is an honourary adjunct professor & entrepreneur in residence at the University of QLD. He loves naturally-aspirated V8s, V10s and V12s and is in denial about the impending death of the internal combustion engine. The best way to reach him is via Instagram.

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