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Snapped: 50,000 escape tickets after being caught using phones, not wearing seatbelts

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 15/08/2022

Smart cameras have snapped 50,000 drivers using their phones or not wearing their seatbelts on Auckland roads but they won't get tickets.

Waka Kotahi is taking over speed cameras from the police, and [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/472863/smart-speed-cameras-could-be-in-use-within-months

aims to add more of the smarter ones] - which the agency calls safety cameras - on risky roads.

It has been testing two of the high-tech cameras since May, the first trial of its kind, the agency said.

At three sites they snapped 50,000 breaches by drivers in two months.

Police were not involved in the trial and there will be no enforcement action.

NZTA documents suggested it would take a law change to enact penalties using the footage.

To protect privacy, photos were not being taken of any people's faces in a vehicle and the number plate was blurred out.

"The scale of actual distracted driving and seatbelt non-compliance in general is mostly anecdotal," director of land transport Kane Patena said in a statement.

"The purpose of this trial is twofold - to test the camera technology ... and to build on the evidence base to help us better understand the scale of illegal mobile phone use and non-wearing of seatbelts."

The cameras began snapping cellphone use since May and expanded to seatbelts a month ago.

The breach rate of 800 drivers a day represented 1.14 percent of the 4.4 million vehicles snapped since May.

Driver distraction featured in almost eight percent of all crashes, Waka Kotahi said.

Images where no offence was captured were deleted within minutes at the camera site, and all footage was deleted within 48 hours, the agency said.

"No detailed analysis has been completed on the raw data.

"Decisions on the future use of this technology will be made following the completion of the trial and a detailed analysis of the results," Patena said.

The agency has already signed a contract with Spanish traffic company SICE for new cameras - and ordered 26 - and a new tolling system, OIA documents showed.

In them, Waka Kotahi said the focus was on public education, engagement and education "to achieve a change in driver behaviour".

"The rationale for transferring safety cameras [from police] was to incorporate safety cameras, along with speed reviews and infrastructure, into Waka Kotahi's broader speed management planning process and to shift the public away from perceptions that safety cameras are an enforcement, revenue-gathering tool," a board paper said.

Key recent developments included:

  • Getting agreement from the transport minister to consult on a review, including law changes to enable stiffer safety camera infringement fees, along with demerit points for the first time
  • Putting some of the fines money into road safety initiatives
  • Safety cameras use being widened to include: mobile phone use, use of seatbelts, driving in an emergency stopping lane and tail-gating.

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