A fleet of cameras used to monitor mobile phone and seatbelt use in Queensland will be used permanently.
They were activated on Monday, 26 July 2021. Fines are now being issued as of Monday, 1 November 2021.
UPDATE, 1/11/2021 – Fines are now being issued for offences detected by the phone detection cameras.
This follows a trial that ran from July to December 2020, with 15,000 people detected illegally using a mobile phone and more than 2200 detected without a seatbelt.
From July 26 to October 31 this year, there was a grace period where offenders received warning notices instead of fines.
ABC News reports the Department of Transport and Main Roads issued 21,599 warning letters between July 26 and October 16 which, had there not been a grace period for fines, would have resulted in more than $20 million in fines.
The vast majority of these letters – 84 per cent – were for mobile phone use.
The current penalty in Queensland for using a mobile phone behind the wheel is $1033 and four demerit points, while the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $413 and three demerit points.
You can’t hold your mobile phone, even if you’re stopped in traffic. The rules are even stricter for those on L or P1 plates, who can’t use Bluetooth or loudspeaker.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said there’ll be a mix of fixed and mobile cameras, and the locations won’t be published.
“Some of the cameras will be mobile, and we won’t be telling people where they are either,” he said.
“Drivers should expect to be caught anywhere, anytime, whether they’re driving in the city or on a regional highway.”
The cameras will also detect if front-seat passengers aren’t wearing their seat belts.
The Queensland Government says driver distraction contributes to almost 20 per cent of serious injuries and 12 per cent of all fatalities on Queensland roads, and that using a moible phone while driving has the same impact as having a blood alcohol reading between 0.07 and 0.10.
The cameras are part of a $1.69 billion road safety plan designed to address a rising road toll.
The Queensland Government is also rolling out stricter penalties for drink driving offenders, which it says are the most substantial reforms since random breath testing was introduced.
From September 2021, drink drivers need to complete an early intervention course before they can get their licence back.
Repeat offenders are subject to a more intensive education program, while the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Program will be expanded to what are called ‘mid-range’ drink drivers.
Above: A NSW video about the mobile phone cameras
Revenue generated from these new and expanded initiatives will go towards safety upgrades, improved driver education, and policies designed to reduce road crashes.
The State Government also plans to work with the Federal Government to upgrade rest facilities and install new road barriers, street lighting, overtaking lanes and audible lane markings.
43 people who died in crashes in Queensland last year weren’t wearing a seatbelt, up 14 on 2019’s numbers and 15 more than the previous five-year average.
So far in 2021, 136 people have died on Queensland roads, an increase of 12 on the same period last year.
“We know on average around 29 people are killed and more than a thousand others are seriously injured every year on Queensland roads as a result of crashes where driver distraction played a part,” said RACQ spokesperson Renee Smith.
“Given the shocking number of people killed on our roads so far this year, we hope these new measures will help deter unsafe driving and save lives.”
Victoria trialled mobile phone detection cameras for three months last year, and announced earlier this year it would invest $33.7 million to develop and roll out more cameras by 2023.
The trial found out of a total of 679,438 vehicles, one in 42 drivers were detected illegally using a mobile phone behind the wheel.
The penalty for illegally using your mobile phone while driving is four demerit points and a $545 fine.
New South Wales’ cameras detected more than 20,000 offending drivers and netted more than $7 million in fines in March and April 2020 alone.
The fine for illegal mobile phone use is $352, or $469 in school zones. There’s also a five demerit point penalty.