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Thousands of Queenslanders Caught Using Mobile Phones, Not Wearing Seatbelts

Seatbelt misuse and distraction, specifically from mobile phones, continue to cause serious injuries and fatal crashes on Australian roads.

In late July 2021, the Queensland government turned on new mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras across the state… the result?

Hundreds were caught on the first day and over 6800 were caught in the first three weeks.

Of the nearly 7000 drivers caught, 5875 used their mobile phones illegally while 948 front-seat passengers were caught not using seatbelts.

An earlier trial of the cameras in 2020 from July to December found more than 15,000 drivers using mobile phones and 2200 driving without a seatbelt – a shocking number considering the risks involved.

From the 1st of November penalties will be implemented, with drivers caught before this date to receive only a warning letter.

The penalties that apply are as follows:

  • $1033 and loss of four demerit points if caught using a phone illegally
  • $413 and a loss of three demerit points for not wearing a seatbelt, with additional penalties for each passenger caught not wearing a seatbelt

If these penalties came into play in July, a massive $6 million in fines would have been issued.

While it seems simple enough – wear your seatbelt and don’t use your phone when driving – here’s how to avoid being fined AND drive safely.

Drivers and all passengers must always wear their seatbelt in the car. Appropriate and approved child restraints must also be used for children unable to properly use seatbelts.

Earlier this year it became illegal to hold or rest a mobile phone on any part of the driver’s body. The phone does not need to be turned on for this to be considered an offence (find more here).

But what do we know about the cameras?

There are two types of mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras:

  • Fixed cameras – these cameras are fitted to existing infrastructure and operate 24/7
  • Portable cameras – these cameras are used at random locations in both urban and regional areas for shorter periods

The location of these cameras, based on crash data where distraction due to mobile phone use or seatbelt misuse contributed to the severity of a crash, remain unannounced.

Using artificial intelligence, the images taken are filtered to detect possible mobile phone use and whether seatbelts are worn properly. When a possible offence is detected, the image is passed on to the Department of Transport and Main Roads for the final say. All other images are subsequently deleted.

When driver distraction contributes to almost 20% of serious injuries on Queensland roads and not wearing a seatbelt increases the probability of fatality in an accident by nine times, finding ways to reduce these risky driving behaviours is a must.

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