Drivers in and around Perth using mobile phones and not wearing seatbelts will be caught on camera over the next three months under a trial of new cutting-edge, Australia-first technology.
Six of the mobile point-to-point road safety cameras will be placed in pairs around the metropolitan area and within 200km of the city on regional roads, detecting average speed as well as spot speeds.
Road Safety Minister Paul Papalia said no fines would be issued under the trial but the details of anyone captured behaving particularly egregiously – not just drivers but also passengers – would be passed onto police for follow up.
“Say someone speeding well in excess of the speed limit and doing something really dangerous, that information obviously can be used by police to investigate,” Mr Papalia told reporters on Wednesday.
“People, wherever these are deployed, will have to be aware that they could be caught if they’re not wearing their seatbelt or if they’re using their mobile phones or if they’re speeding not just at that point but over a large distance.
“People won’t know where the cameras are.”
He said the cameras were particularly needed in the regions, where two-thirds of WA’s road deaths occurred.
Out of more than 160 fatalities last year, 14 were people not wearing seatbelts, the Minister said, describing the new technology as the “Swiss Army Knife of road safety cameras”.
“It’s a unique capability, it’s a big step forward for us here in Western Australia … giving us a big step-up in coverage for road safety,” Mr Papalia said.
He said the trial would build information about where large numbers of certain types of offending was occurring and where the need for more enforcement was greatest.
Published images taken from fixed freeway cameras confirmed there was some “appalling … terribly dangerous behaviour” on Perth’s major roads and there was no reason to suspect that wasn’t happening elsewhere, Mr Papalia said.
After the trial findings are assessed, legislation would have to be changed to allow the technology to be used to penalise people, which would take time, the Minister said.
Evidence showed that drivers responded to punitive measures with a change in behaviour, resulting in a reduction in deaths and serious crashes.
“What people are telling us is that they’re not scared enough because they don’t see enough cameras,” Road Safety Commissioner Adrian Warner said.
“Over 80 per cent of the people we’ve surveyed – and this includes people who have never got an infringement in their life and people who get infringements quite regularly … say they are very supportive of using these cameras to detect mobile phone use and seatbelt use.
“So while they might be infringing, they do recognise that these are very risky behaviours.”
The fine in WA for using a mobile phone while driving – including simply touching it – is $500 plus three demerit points, but using it as a streaming service while driving is a $1000 fine and four demerit points.
Not wearing a seatbelt starts at $550, with higher penalties if children are unrestrained, State Traffic Commander Mike Bell warned.
Alexander Jannink, managing director of Acusensus, which developed the tech, said there was no limit to how many cars could be photographed and each that went past the cameras would be snapped.
Images that do not detect offending behaviour will be discarded.