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Big Brother watching: New tech can snag drivers on the phone — 24 hrs a day

(FILE PHOTO by Getty)

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Phone addicts beware — technology has been developed that can catch you in the act of texting, making phone calls or toying around with apps while driving. And unlike with speeding cameras, these revolutionary devices won’t come with a warning.

That’s the bad news. The good news — or at least for those who worry about big government intrusion into their lives — is that this technology is coming to Australia, not the United States.

“An Australian state is attempting to persuade people to put down their smartphones while driving by rolling out cameras to prosecute distracted motorists,” the Associated Press confirmed Monday.

“New South Wales Roads Minister Andrew Constance said Monday that Australia’s most populous state is the first jurisdiction in the world to use such technology to punish drivers distracted by social media, text messages or phone calls.”

“There is no doubt drink-driving as far as I’m concerned is on a par with mobile phone use, and that’s why we want everyone to be aware that you’re going to get busted doing this anytime, anywhere,” Constance reportedly told the media.

Just in the United States, nine people are killed each day because of crashes involving distracted drivers, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. CDC data likewise shows that 29 people die daily in the U.S. from crashes involving drunk drivers.

(Source: CDC)

To be clear, “distracted driving” also includes instances where the driver was “using a navigation system,” “eating while driving,” etc.

However, the CDC notes that “texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover the length of a football field while driving at 55 mph.”

The plan in New South Wales is reportedly to deploy 45 “Mobile Phone Detection Cameras” across the state by December.

“Each unit contains two cameras. One camera photographs a car’s registration plate and a second high-set lens looks down through the windscreen and can see what drivers are doing with their hands,” the AP notes.

What’s particularly noteworthy about these cameras is that they’ll be operated out in the fields by artificial intelligence. Humans will only play a role in later verifying that the caught drivers were indeed driving while using their phones.

“Photos that show suspected illegal behavior are referred for verification by human eyes before an infringement notice is sent to the vehicle’s registered owner along with a 344 Australian dollar ($232) fine. Some cameras will be permanently fixed on roadsides and others will be placed on trailers and moved around the state,” the AP notes.

Moreover, there will be no signs to warn drivers of the cameras.

“We have to, unfortunately, use the element of surprise to get people to think, ‘Well, I could get caught at any time,'” Constance said to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I want behavior to change and I want it changed immediately.”

The goal appears to be to make the risk of being caught so high that drivers in the Australian state stop risking being hit with a $232 fine — not to mention stop risking losing their lives — and start waiting until they stop to text and use their phone.

It’s shocking that such a move is even necessary, given as how many people have lost their lives or suffered immeasurably because of distracted driving.

Case in point (*Graphic warning):

What remains unclear is how the American people would react to these cameras one day appearing on their own streets.

When Fox News shared news about New South Wales’ upcoming cameras, its readers overwhelmingly expressed support for importing the technology into the U.S.

“They need to implement this in the States and make texting and driving tickets $1000 for each offense,” the top-voted comment read as of Tuesday morning. “When I get into my vehicle the phone goes into the center console until I reach my destination.”

“This should be brought to the States like yesterday,” the second top-voted comment read. “There is always one other vehicle next to mine on the road where the driver is on their phone at any given time.”

Over on Twitter, meanwhile, some critics have complained that this move by New South Wales’ government amounts to a gross violation of privacy.

 

Vivek Saxena

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