- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Emerging technologies are enabling law enforcement to detect cell-phone use while driving and are giving cities and states the option of ticketing drivers automatically, as speed-cams already let them do for speeding.

And it’s already happening in introductory fashions, with broader use on the horizon.

“Line-of-sight by trained officers is the primary method of detection” of drivers using cell phones,” a spokesman for the New South Wales police told News.com.au “However, long-ranged cameras have been used with success, and helmet cameras in motorcycle police continue to be used.”

According to the report by the site, a sister network of Fox News, even those technologies “could soon be replaced by stationary cameras that automatically issue an infringement notice” without the driver knowing.

Mick Corboy, assistant commissioner for the New South Wales Police Highway Patrol, told Nine News there were “emerging technologies coming out” to battle cell phone use in cars.

“The way we are going to defeat this is by video evidence, by photographic evidence,” he said. “We are looking at everything possible around the world at the moment and we think we’ll get something in place fairly quickly.”

His political masters want a comprehensive plan in place over the next few years.

This week, Melinda Pavey, New South Wales Minister for Roads, issued a clarion call for “practical, technology-based solutions to address the problem” of texting and/or talking while driving.

“Developing this technology would be a world-first and is one of the priorities of our Road Safety Plan 2021 that we announced,” Mrs. Pavey said.

She said a bill had been introduced into the state legislature that would explicitly let cameras issue automatic citations to drivers for cell-phone use.

According to the National Safety Council, about 1.6 million auto accidents per year — about one-fourth of the U.S. total — are caused by cell-phone distraction. The annual casualty toll in the U.S. blamed on cell-phones and driving is typically around 3,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries.

However, the existing use of cameras to issue tickets automatically for speeding and red-light offenses and fine drivers accordingly has drawn much criticism.

Part of the concern is fairness, but many municipalities — ranging from Washington, D.C., to Ferguson, Missouri — have been criticized for using traffic fines as a general source of revenue.

Where used in the U.S., speed and red-light cameras have come under specific criticism as a too-easy cash cow.

Australia’s second-largest city did a trial last year of a red-light style camera that can photograph drivers using cell phones, with jaw-dropping and potentially lucrative results.

Though Melbourne did not issue citations, according to the Melbourne Herald Sun, a five-hour test in one lane of a major freeway detected 272 miscreants.

Existing fines for cell-phone use while driving vary in the U.S. by state, but generally run from $50 to $500, assuming no accidents or worse.

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