New camera tech could catch drivers using mobile phones

RSA research finds one in 10 drivers admit texting, using apps behind wheel

Mobile phone use is considered one of the four key road safety issues, alongside speeding, drink- and drug-driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts. Photograph: iStock

Mobile phone use is considered one of the four key road safety issues, alongside speeding, drink- and drug-driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts. Photograph: iStock

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Drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel may in future be photographed by new roadside cameras under plans being examined by the Garda.

Chief Superintendant Michael Hennebry, who was recently appointed head of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau, has confirmed the technology is now under consideration.

He said mobile phone use is considered one of the four key road safety issues, alongside speeding, drink- and drug-driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts.

“We are looking at some technology that might be coming down the tracks,” he told The Irish Times.

Chief Supt Hennebry said the “camera-based” technology would take pictures suitable for use as evidence of an offence.

“There is technology out there that can assist us. But again the key to this is changing driver behaviours and the technology, whilst it will detect people potentially driving whilst using the phone, the key for us is that people change their behaviour and become compliant and just put the phone down while driving.”

The process remains at an early stage, with no timeline yet for its potential adoption.

Recent research conducted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on driver attitudes and behaviour showed an increase in motorists admitting to texting and using apps behind the wheel, now at about one in 10 drivers.

Gardaí said the detections fluctuated alongside Covid-19 related traffic volumes and were found to have “increased sharply” between January and April.

Data provided by gardaí for the first six months of 2021 show that detection of mobile phone use has risen 13 per cent on the same period last year, with almost 13,000 offences.

However, a problem for gardaí has long been the ability to prove somebody was on their phone while driving.

Authorities in New South Wales in Australia introduced artificial intelligence cameras in 2019 to detect drivers using phones after a trial caught 100,000 offenders. They said they now plan to expand the network of cameras.

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