Picture: Centre for Road Safety
Picture: Centre for Road Safety

Reason people still text and drive

NEW detection cameras being trialled on two busy Sydney roads have proven successful, catching more than 20,000 drivers on their phones.

But the man behind the new technology says the result is the last thing he wanted.

Alexander Jannink is the managing director of Acusensus, the Australian company chosen by the NSW Government to trial new mobile phone detection cameras.

The first 25 days of the trial saw 20,125 motorists caught illegally using a mobile phone on the M4 and Anzac Parade.

While Mr Jannink is passionate about using this technology to make our roads safer, he revealed to news.com.au that he had hoped no one would be caught.

More than 20,000 people were caught by the camera within the first 25 days of the trial. Picture: Centre for Road Safety
More than 20,000 people were caught by the camera within the first 25 days of the trial. Picture: Centre for Road Safety

He said while the cameras could play an important role in holding dangerous drivers accountable, "education and public awareness is really key to reducing the problem".

"Ultimately we hope that nobody is caught by the Acusensus Heads-Up cameras," Mr Jannink said.

"That will mean that the deterrence effect and the public awareness campaigns have been effective at solving the problem."

However, it seems that the presence of the cameras has not been enough to stop drivers from messing with their phones behind the wheel, with almost 1000 people being photographed a day in Sydney.

Mr Jannink knows first hand the devastating impact mobile phone use can have on motorists after his friend James Rapley was killed by a distracted driver.

"Road trauma touches almost everybody in society," he said.

"Since 2013 road fatality rates have been rising year on year, now up more than 15 per cent since then."

Alexander Jannink hopes his invention will deter drivers from illegally using their phones.
Alexander Jannink hopes his invention will deter drivers from illegally using their phones.

Compared to speeding and drink driving, mobile phone distraction is a "major unaddressed source of road trauma".

Campaigns warning about the dangers of phone use have ramped up in recent years, with the NSW Government even increasing the penalty for using a phone while driving from four demerit points to five.

The lack of a technological solution to this issue may be the reason drivers continue to break this rule so frequently.

Speed cameras and roadside drug and alcohol tests are a deterrent for many drivers, but until now there hasn't really been technology specifically designed to catch distracted motorists.

One driver was caught letting his passenger steer the car while he used both hands to text. Picture: Centre for Road Safety
One driver was caught letting his passenger steer the car while he used both hands to text. Picture: Centre for Road Safety

"Illegal mobile phone use is mostly unenforced and yet is exceptionally dangerous and disturbingly prevalent," Mr Jannink said.

"With advances in various enabling technologies over the past few years we believed that a technological solution could now be provided to enforce the behaviour automatically, which would provide a tool for the authorities to use to deter the behaviour and thereby reduce the road trauma that results from it."

The cameras are capable of catching drivers using their phones even at night, in poor weather conditions and at speeds up to 300km/h.

With any new technology that has the potential to land drivers in trouble there is going to be some push back, but Mr Jannink said the response had mostly been positive.

"Unlike some other enforcement programs, the public really seems to be onside with enforcing illegal phone use," he said.

"There will always be a small minority of people who object to being caught even if they are doing the wrong thing.

Drivers caught by the cameras won’t be fined until April. Picture: Centre for Road Safety
Drivers caught by the cameras won’t be fined until April. Picture: Centre for Road Safety

"We don't think there is any scenario in which a motorist can safely use a mobile phone while in motion without substantially raising their crash risk."

Between 1 and 5 per cent of drivers are reportedly using their phone illegally at any given time.

Mr Jannink believes that widespread use of the Acusensus cameras would see that number drop by 0.5 per cent.

Sydney drivers caught by the cameras are issued with a warning. Fines will not be issued until April, when the three month trial period is up.

The Centre for Road Safety's executive director, Bernard Carlon, told news.com.au that just two seconds of distraction can have devastating results.

"If you drive at 60km/h and look at your mobile phone for just two seconds you travel 33 metres virtually blind and double your risk of having a crash," Mr Carlon said.

"The consequences can be tragic. No text, phone call or social media post is worth putting yourself and others at risk of being killed or seriously injured."



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