Smart cameras to be used to check on drivers using mobile phones at the wheel

Smart cameras to be used to check on drivers using mobile phones at the wheel
Photo by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

Smart cameras will soon be used to keep track of drivers using mobile phones while at the wheel, L’Avenir and Medahuis newspapers reported on Saturday.

A new agreement on using the cameras to put an end to “the alarming increase in the use of mobile phones at the wheel,” has been concluded within the Federal Government, the newspapers reported, Belga News Agency reports.

This is one of 32 concrete measures included in the new Federal Road Safety Plan, in which “new advanced technology” plays a central role. The plan also incorporates the principle of graduated sanctions, and paves the way for a points-based driver’s license.

Belgium’s aging population, increasing distractions at the wheel due to smart phones, the rising number of drivers under the influence of drugs and higher numbers of active road users such as cyclists and scooter riders are among factors cited in the plan as causes of the increase in the number of traffic accident victims.

Against this background, “traditional measures are no longer enough,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) said. The Government has thus turned to the ANPR camera network, which is already installed along the country’s roads.

“The technology is available, tested and approved,” Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) said.

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The cameras will take photos through the windshields and license plates of vehicles. If the system, based on Artificial Intelligence, suspects that a driver is holding a telephone, it will send the images to the police. A human being will then judge whether an infraction has been committed.

It is not yet known whether the cameras will immediately monitor all vehicles or only trucks, or the frequency with which they will be in service. “The first pilot projects should begin early next year,” Minister Gilkinet said. In the meantime, the Government will work on the legal framework required for these semi-automatic checks. Some draft bills are already being studied in parliament but still need to get past national privacy laws.

Drivers caught committing the same offence multiple times will soon pay higher prices.

“If people systematically drive at 140 kilometres per hour on the highway today, they can get off with the same fine five, ten, twenty times,” Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld) noted. That will change. The Government will introduce a graduated system, including for minor offences to be dealt with immediately. This system appears to be a first step towards a points-based driver’s license, which already exists in many European countries and has been under discussion for decades in Belgium.

Offenders who fail to pay their fines will soon risk having their licenses suspended.

The new Federal Road Safety Plan aims to reduce road fatalities to zero (0) by the year 2050 and to slash the number of persons severely injured on Belgium’s roads each year by 90%, bring it down to less than 360, within the same period.

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