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New South Wales now has mobile phone detection cameras to catch drivers texting – but if you're caught, you won't get a fine for the first three months

Sharon Masige
  • The New South Wales government has switched on mobile phone detection cameras across the state's roads, designed to spot illegal phone users.
  • For the first three months the cameras are on, drivers who are caught using their phone illegally will get a warning letter.
  • Once the three months are up, illegal phone users who are caught will get a $344 fine.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

You might want to think twice before using your phone while driving.

The New South Wales Government switched on its phone detection cameras on December 1 in a bid to catch illegal phone users.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said the fixed and mobile trailer-mounted cameras will target illegal mobile phone use as part of a broader goal to reduce the number of deaths on state roads.

“As we enter a notoriously dangerous time of the year on our roads I want all drivers to know that if you use your mobile phone while behind the wheel of a vehicle in NSW you will have a greater chance of being caught, anywhere at anytime," Constance said in a statement.

According to the NSW Centre for Road Safety, it's illegal to hold and use your phone while driving or riding. It is also illegal at traffic lights or stuck in traffic. If you're on your full license, you can use your phone without touching if it's secured in a cradle or via Bluetooth.

In the cradle, you can touch your phone to make or receive a phone call, to play audio or to use a navigation program like Google Maps.

In the first three months of the cameras being on, drivers who are caught illegally using their phones will just receive a warning letter. After the three months, you'll be slapped with a $344 fine if you're caught, or a $457 fine in a school zone. You also get five demerit points or 10 during double demerit seasons.

NSW Minister for regional roads Paul Toole said the program will eventually check 135 million vehicles on the state's roads each year by 2023.

Bernard Carlon, Executive Director of Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety said more than 100,000 drivers illegally using a phone were caught during a camera trial earlier this year.

“Independent modelling has shown these cameras could prevent around 100 fatal and serious injury crashes over five years,” Carlon said.

Constance has been fighting to have phone detection cameras used without having warning signs. However, the Transport for New South Wales website noted that the signs will be used.

“Transport for NSW will use Variable Message Signs (VMS) and install fixed signs on key routes to ensure that drivers are aware of camera-based enforcement of mobile phone offences," it said. Business Insider Australia has reached out to Transport for New South Wales for clarity on whether warning signs will be used.

Earlier this year a Seven News report revealed the New South Wales government's plan to get rid of all warning signs for speed cameras throughout the state.

The report referenced Monash University research which found that removing speed camera signs could save up to 54 lives each year.

In 2018, a report from the Audit Office of New South Wales even highlighted that putting up signs can reduce the effectiveness of speed cameras.