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The devastating personal story behind the new cameras that catch drivers using mobile phones.

It was the tragic death of a friend which turned Alexander Jannick’s road safety career into a heartfelt mission.

The 34-year-old is the inventor of new camera technology that can detect motorists illegally using mobile phones in their cars, to be trialled in NSW from January.

As reported by the Daily Telegraph, Jannick invented the cameras after his close friend James Rapley was killed by a drug-impaired driver using a mobile phone in Los Angeles in 2013.

james rapley
Image: everydayhero.

"Like a lot of people I have been personally affected by it and I think that distracted driving is one of the big unaddressed causes of road trauma right now," Jannick said.

"My goal is to try and improve road safety and I thought this was a really big area in which we can make an impact that hasn’t been addressed yet."

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Jannick's company Acusensus has been selected by the NSW Government to pilot its high-tech cameras in two of Sydney's busiest locations - on the M4 and Anzac Parade -  for a three-month trial after a successful testing phase and tender process.

There will also be a mobile camera to keep motorists guessing.

The new system uses high-definition cameras and artificial intelligence to detect offending drivers. It can operate both day and night and in all weather conditions and is able to detect phones in cars driving up to 300km/h.

The new cameras have already detected more than 11,000 drivers using their mobile phones during a month-long test during October, Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said.

One shocking image from the trial shows a motorist with both hands on their phone while a passenger holds the steering wheel for them.

"I think it's really disappointing, some of those images that we see, because we know we shouldn't do it and yet people are still taking that risk and we need another set of measures to warn people off that behaviour," Pavey told reporters.

No fines will be issued during the pilot, but the NSW Government said this was an opportunity for drivers to re-think and to change their behaviour by putting their phone out of reach every time they drive.

Before fines are issued, there will be a one-month period during the pilot where the registered operator of the vehicle will be issued a warning letter for each offence detected.

It is illegal for NSW drivers to hold their mobile phones while driving, but they can talk, play music or use navigation if the phone is held in a cradle fixed to the vehicle.

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