We’re of­ten driven to deadly dis­trac­tion by our mo­biles but new tech­nolo­gies to catch us are on the way,

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - write Patrick Billings and Kate Kyr­i­akou [email protected]


This is com­mon be­hav­iour across all de­mo­graph­ics. It’s an epi­demic, dis­tracted driv­ing PE­TER FRAZER, V I C T I M ’ S FA­THER AND NA­TIONAL ROAD SAFETY WEEK FOUNDER

SARAH Frazer stood by her bro­ken down car, sit­ting atop a tow truck with its flash­ing orange lights. She and tow truck driver Ge­of­frey Clarke were on the side of the Hume Mo­tor­way, some­where near Mit­tagong, in the NSW south­ern high­lands, when a dis­tracted driver ran them both down.

Sarah had been on her way to uni­ver­sity, where she was go­ing to study to be a pho­tog­ra­pher, when she was killed in Fe­bru­ary, 2012.

Ge­of­frey, a fa­ther of four, had rushed out to help the 23-year-old when her car over­heated. He too was killed.

Kaine Bar­nett was be­hind the wheel of a courier truck. A court would hear he must have been dis­tracted for more than 11 sec­onds to miss the tow truck’s flash­ing lights.

Eleven sec­onds and two dev­as­tated fam­i­lies whose lives changed for­ever. The man­ner of the dis­trac­tion was never de­ter­mined.

“She was prob­a­bly the smartest, kind­est per­son I’d ever met, to be hon­est,” Sarah’s fa­ther Pe­ter says. “Not to be look­ing ahead at all times while driv­ing is a ter­ri­ble in­dict­ment. But we know this is com­mon be­hav­iour across all de­mo­graph­ics. It’s an epi­demic, dis­tracted driv­ing.”

It’s this crash that Alex McCredie thinks about as he stud­ies the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing mo­bile phones be­hind the wheel.

Sarah’s fa­ther is a close friend of McCredie’s and they have both spent years cam­paign­ing for safer roads.

McCredie is the di­rec­tor of a com­pany called One Task, a small startup try­ing to en­cour­age state gov­ern­ments to use new tech­nol­ogy that can mon­i­tor ex­actly how many peo­ple are us­ing their phones while driv­ing.

A hi-tech cam­era takes pho­to­graphs of a driver in­side a mov­ing ve­hi­cle and a com­puter pro­gram au­to­mat­i­cally scans the im­ages and se­lects the ones where a per­son is hold­ing or us­ing a phone. Those im­ages are then man­u­ally checked to ver­ify the mo­bile phone use.

“I find it a real blight on so­ci­ety,” McCredie says, “that we see the road toll and think, well, that’s just the cost of liv­ing in so­ci­ety.

“It re­ally shouldn’t be.”

McCredie be­lieves his cam­era could be used not only for en­force­ment, but also to mon­i­tor the suc­cess of road safety cam­paigns.

“You can see if peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to the mes­sage you are put­ting out,” he says. “It should be a no-brainer. “If a gov­ern­ment is go­ing to spend mil­lions of dol­lars on an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign, it makes sense to get some fig­ures on driver be­hav­iour be­fore and af­ter the cam­paign. For good­ness sake, have a look whether your cam­paigns are ef­fec­tive.” As part of his pitch to state gov­ern­ments, McCredie con­ducted stud­ies in each cap­i­tal city us­ing his cam­era. In Bris­bane, the re­sults were hor­ri­fy­ing. In just un­der five hours, 479 peo­ple were de­tected ei­ther us­ing their mo­bile phone or rest­ing it on their lap. It equated to one driver every 33 sec­onds. Of these, 53 per cent were ac­tively us­ing their phone – hold­ing it to their ear, hold­ing it in their hand or touch­ing it in a cra­dle. Af­ter the death of his daugh­ter, Pe­ter Frazer set up Safer Aus­tralian Roads and High­ways (SARAH) Group and es­tab­lished Na­tional Road Safety Week. They use a yel­low rib­bon to re­mind peo­ple of the per­sonal im­pact of road trauma. That im­pact was high­lighted last month when The Courier-Mail and 21 other News Queens­land papers ran a “Road to Change” cam­paign in an ef­fort to stop the car­nage. Frazer says McCredie’s tech­nol­ogy is one way to help with this. It is “ab­so­lutely” nec­es­sary to change driver be­hav­iour. “This is a se­ri­ous road safety is­sue,” he tells Insight. “Us­ing this tech­nol­ogy would im­prove the com­pli­ance rates.”

Queens­land gov­ern­ment de­part­ments are cur­rently mon­i­tor­ing One Task use in other states to see if it would be use­ful here. But the One Task cam­era isn’t the only re­source avail­able to help curb road trauma in Queens­land.

Cops pos­ing as clean­ers, ve­hi­cles pre­dict­ing crashes and elec­tronic signs sham­ing driv­ers on their phones are all tac­tics cur­rently be­ing used in Aus­tralia and abroad.

Ear­lier this month Vic­to­ria Po­lice went un­der­cover as squeegee guys to catch driv­ers

on their phones. The sting saw covert of­fi­cers ap­proach cars un­der the guise of clean­ing wind­screens, but in­stead they busted driv­ers on their phones in Mel­bourne. The oper­a­tion re­port­edly net­ted more than $18,000 in fines.

Vic­to­ria is also pi­o­neer­ing hi-tech cam­era de­vices that scan driv­ers’ eyes for fa­tigue. The test works by mea­sur­ing peo­ple’s pupils and search­ing for signs of tiredness.

A 12-month trial is eval­u­at­ing how prac­ti­cal it would be and if suc­cess­ful the fa­tigue test could be rolled out like RBTs and drug tests.

Queens­land Po­lice As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Mike Keat­ing says mo­bile phone use is an enor­mous prob­lem. “A large pro­por­tion of peo­ple ac­tu­ally re­port that they con­tinue to use their phone (while driv­ing) even though they know it’s risky,” he says.

Keat­ing says po­lice are con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor­ing evolv­ing tech­nol­ogy that can be used for road safety and are in the process of rolling out more point-to-point speed cam­era sys­tems.

“We are big on tech­nol­ogy,” he says.

“We have got state-of-theart tech­nolo­gies in terms of speed cam­era pro­grams.”

He says he is aware of in­ter­state tri­als in­volv­ing fa­tigue de­tec­tion cam­eras.

“That’s an area with a lot of in­no­va­tion,” Keat­ing says.

“There’s a lot of work be­ing done on that in the min­ing sec­tor and ex­plo­ration sec­tor. That’s where it’s ac­tu­ally evolv­ing.”

In NSW the Cen­tre for Road Safety is tri­alling tech­nol­ogy that can de­tect crashes “four sec­onds into the fu­ture”.

The Aus­tralian-first Cooperative In­tel­li­gent Trans­port Ini­tia­tive wire­lessly con­nects ve­hi­cles so driv­ers get mes­sages about po­ten­tial crash haz­ards. The trial, the first in the world to fo­cus on heavy ve­hi­cles, also com­mu­ni­cates with traf­fic lights and other road­side equip­ment.

Over­seas au­thor­i­ties are seek­ing to shame road users into good be­hav­iour. Us­ing so­cial dis­ap­proval as a tech­nique, the UK has in­tro­duced elec­tronic signs which de­tect when a driver is us­ing their phone. The road signs then flash a sym­bol of a mo­bile phone with a line through it re­mind­ing mo­torists not to dial and drive.

The tech­nol­ogy is able to de­tect whether the driver is us­ing hands-free or not.

In Paris where the “zom­bie” pedes­trian phenomenon – walk­ers dis­tracted by mo­bile phones – is out of con­trol, au­thor­i­ties crafted a novel re­sponse.

Af­ter 4500 pedes­tri­ans were killed or in­jured in just one year, the Road Safety Au­thor­ity of Paris rolled out Vir­tual Crash Bill­boards. The bill­board blares out the screech­ing sound of car tyres when­ever a pedes­trian crosses on a red light. A photo of the ter­ri­fied pedes­trian is cap­tured and dis­played on the bill­board as a re­minder not to jay­walk.

A spokesper­son from the De­part­ment of Main Roads and Trans­port says they mon­i­tor ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy that could help re­duce the state’s road toll.

“We will soon start mar­ket en­gage­ment to as­sess a broad range of in­no­va­tive tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions to this grow­ing prob­lem,” the spokesper­son says.

The UK and Nor­way have also recog­nised the grow­ing prob­lem of pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion and have in­tro­duced reg­u­la­tions over their use by driv­ers. In the UK, laws set thresh­olds for the amount of pre­scrip­tion drugs a driver can have in their sys­tem when they get be­hind the wheel.

But a spokesman for Trans­port and Main Roads Min­is­ter Mark Bai­ley says the State Gov­ern­ment would not be in­tro­duc­ing sim­i­lar laws here.

“If a po­lice of­fi­cer rea­son­ably sus­pects a per­son’s driv­ing abil­ity has been im­paired by any drug, they may re­quire a driver to pro­vide a spec­i­men of blood for anal­y­sis,” he says.

“If suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence is pro­vided, they will be charged with driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence and be re­quired to ap­pear in court.”

SAFETY FIRST: (main) A memo­rial to Sarah Frazer, who was killed in 2012; (in­sets, from far left) Pe­ter Frazer, Sarah’s fa­ther, cam­paigns for road safety; Alex McCredie with a cam­era that can de­tect peo­ple us­ing their mo­bile phones while driv­ing; and two of the peo­ple de­tected; and the crash site where Sarah and Ge­of­frey Clarke died. FIGHT FOR GOOD: (be­low, far left) The Courier-Mail, along with 21 other News Queens­land papers, cam­paigned last month to re­duce the state state’ss road toll.

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