An Garda Síochána is examining new speed camera technology which will be capable of detecting drivers who are not wearing seat belts or using mobile phones.
The technology will form part of a planned €100 million spend on new traffic-monitoring systems which will be installed, maintained and operated by a private company.
If the relevant legislation is passed by the Oireachtas, the new cameras will also be capable of detecting if drivers are using bus lanes illegally or are breaking traffic lights.
The new system will replace the current contract gardaí have with the private provider GoSafe which operates almost 1,400 safety cameras zones around the country.
Currently the cameras are only capable of monitoring if drivers are obeying the speed limit.
As well as watching for seat belt and mobile phone use, the new camera network may be expanded to enforce the speed limit by monitoring the time it takes a vehicle to travel a certain distance.
A similar system is used in Dublin’s Port Tunnel. It means drivers can be caught speeding even if they obey the speed limit as they pass the camera.
Details of the Garda requirements are contained in tendering documents published over the weekend. The Garda said it is seeking market information on the possibility of using a private service for “the provision, installation, commissioning, maintenance and operation of safety cameras for the monitoring of vehicle speeds”.
“These proposed services may be expanded in the future (subject to legislative changes) to include, but not limited to the following; no seat belt detection, the use of mobile phones, average/variable speed detection and compliance with traffic lights and bus lane usage.”
The Garda said it is seeking to learn about “opportunities for emerging technologies and innovation” before issuing the formal request for tender. The contract will last for six years and cost an estimated €100 million, it said.
Seat belt and mobile phone detection systems use two cameras, one to photograph the licence plate and another that photographs the driver. It uses artificial intelligence to analyse the images and determine if the driver is using a device or failing to wear their belt.
If a potential offence is detected, the image is usually verified by a human before a fixed charge penalty notice is sent out. The technology has already being rolled out by several police forces in the UK and Australia.
In Ireland, drivers caught by gardaí without a seat belt automatically receive a €120 fine. Use of a mobile phone while driving attracts a €120 fine and three penalty points.