Australia is getting serious -- and seriously high-tech -- about catching distracted drivers

The Australian state of New South Wales is rolling out new cameras designed to catch you on your phone while you're driving.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
2 min read
Irresponsible man at steering wheel sending message by text messaging on smart phone while driving car on road.
Enlarge Image
Irresponsible man at steering wheel sending message by text messaging on smart phone while driving car on road.

If you're on your phone while driving in Southeastern Australia, prepare to get caught by a new network of cameras.

Philippe Clément/getty images

Lots of municipalities around the world have made using your cellular phone while you're driving a citable offense, but the odds of getting caught and ticketed for not being hands-free are pretty slim unless you happen to be unlucky enough to roll past a cop while trying to take a selfie.

That's all about to change in Australia, where the state of New South Wales is preparing to roll out a network of cameras designed to catch drivers on their phones , according to a report Monday by Time. The system uses two cameras, one to catch a driver's license plate and a second one mounted at a much steeper verticle angle that can see the driver's hands.

"There is no doubt [drunk 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," NSW Road Minister Andrew Constance said in a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The government of NSW has been testing its system for the last six months in two locations. During that time, the cameras scanned more than 8.5 million vehicles and found over 100,000 drivers fiddling with their phones. Considering that a single citation for using your phone while driving costs AU$344, the equivalent of about $235 in US dollars or £190, that's a pretty big financial incentive for the state to get the system up and running.

The full rollout of the camera system will see the network expanded to 45 locations, many of which will be mobile. Currently, Australia's phone laws are much more stringent than those in the US, with anything but passing a phone to a passenger being considered an infraction. This includes using your phone while stopped at a red light.

Partly because of the scope of what's considered illegal, the camera's citations aren't totally automated the way many of the red-light cameras we have in the US are. Once the computer catches someone, the government will require humans to confirm the computers' findings before mailing out the ticket.

Honda's 50th anniversary in Australia is gold, Jerry, gold!

See all photos
Watch this: Top 5: Driving distractions