ACT Legislation Introducing Mobile Device Detection Cameras Notified

Thursday 22 July 2021 @ 2.21 p.m. | Legal Research

On 1 July 2021, the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Amendment Act 2021 (ACT) (‘the Act’) was notified. Its originating Bill was initially presented on 13 May 2021. The Bill of the Act was presented by ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel (‘the Minister’).

The purpose of the Act, according to the BIll's second reading speech, is to:

“amend the road transport legislation to allow for the use of mobile device detection cameras on ACT roads”.

The Act is due to commence on 12 August 2021.

Background of the Act

In the Bill's second reading speech, the Minister outlined some statistics regarding mobile phone use and driving. He noted that distractions in general can influence drivers to drive faster, deviate from their lane, and have delayed reactions on the road, all of which lead to accidents.

In relation to mobile phones specifically, he said:

“Research shows that drivers who look at their mobile phones while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-users. For those who text or browse the internet, the risk of crashing increases by a factor of 10”.

The Minister commented that since mobile device detection cameras have been introduced in NSW, the cameras have “reduced offending by around 80 per cent”.

The Minister emphasised that the ACT has a goal of realising “vision zero”, which the Minister described as a road safety strategy which:

“acknowledges that deaths and serious injuries on our roads are preventable and they are not inevitable”.

The Minister said that this Act is a step towards achieving this goal.

Mobile Device Detection Cameras 

Ultimately, this Act provides a framework for the introduction and use of mobile device detection cameras in the ACT. However, while this Act provides for another mechanism for detecting mobile phone use while driving, the penalties already currently in place will remain the same, regardless the method of detection.

The Minister noted in his second reading speech that the Act:

“enables the use of this new technology through updated definitions of camera types and the circumstances under which roadside cameras can be used. ... [It also] amends the existing legislation … to be more flexible and responsive”.

Protection of Personal Information 

The Act contains several provisions which aim to protect personal information that is collected via mobile device detection cameras. The Minister commented in his second reading speech that consultations were held with the ACT Human Rights Commission and the Australian Information Commissioner to ensure that the framework includes provisions to “safeguard … the use, collection, disclosure and storage of personal information”.

The new Act contains provisions, which:

  • limit the amount of personal information collected;
  • require security safeguards in order to protect the data against loss, unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure;
  • require the encryption of data; and
  • ensure that data showing possible use of a mobile device be reviewed by a compliance officer, otherwise that the data be deleted on the spot.

Further Amendments 

Under the current laws in the ACT, it is not an offence for a driver to hand their mobile device to a passenger while they are driving, however the Minister made it clear in his second reading speech that this does not reflect the Territory’s aim of reducing driver distractions in general. The new Act provides that this behaviour constitutes an offence, closing the loophole in the current legislation.

Additionally, the Minister notes in his second reading speech that the Act makes simplifies the legislation regarding road safety cameras in general, by:

“[relocating] requirements in relation to images taken by a road safety camera from the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Regulation 2017.

The relocation of these provisions to the regulation will allow the government to quickly respond as technology advances, emerging road safety issues are identified or where additional safeguards for the protection of personal information are needed in the future." 

Finally, the Minister commented in his second reading speech that during the first three months of the new provisions being in force, there will be no financial or demerit point penalties. Rather, warning letters will be given, and an “extensive communications campaign” will be implemented to ensure that drivers in the ACT are aware of the new cameras.

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Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Amendment Act 2021, Bill and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service.

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