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Smart cameras to detect mobile phone use while driving
Belgian authorities are rolling out a new pilot programme of so-called "smart cameras" that will be able to detect whether drivers are using their mobile phones behind the wheel.
Using a phone while driving has been made a more serious offence in Belgium. In March of this year, fines for doing so rose from €116 to €174. Those who do not pay their fines can have their licence suspended.
Using a mobile phone while driving does not just mean having it against your ear, either. Drivers can be penalised for having it on their lap, in the passenger seat, or anywhere that isn’t a specific device designed to hold a phone in a car.
“We have updated the definition in the law so that it no longer applies only to portable phones but for any mobile electronic device with a screen,” said Joris Vandenbroucke, the minister behind the bill. “These you cannot use, hold or manipulate while driving.”
The new pilot programme, which comes into force in 2023, entails using smart cameras to track and fine drivers who use their phones while driving.
Initial attempts at such a proposal faced backlash from critics who said it was an unlawful use of artificial intelligence and video recording. A similar programme back in 2019 successfully caught drivers violating this law, though they were ultimately not punished.
This newest version entails having the images checked by an officer who decides on the offence personally.
A new agreement between Belgium’s traffic institute Vias and the federal government will be finalised at the end of the week, at which point it will be decided which police zones participate in the programme.
The system will be deployed in at least one Brussels municipality, two Flemish municipalities and two Walloon municipalities.