Police plan to use cameras to catch motorists on the phone while driving

Dutch police are planning to use cameras with long distance lenses to try to catch motorists who use their mobile phones while driving, the Volkskrant said on Wednesday.

The cameras will be fixed to viaducts and gantries and will take close-up pictures of every driver, allowing the police to spot drivers who have their phones in their hands. Currently, people can only be fined if spotted driving while phoning by a police officer.

Last year, some 75,000 people were fined for using their phones in traffic and the government plans to classify the practice as reckless driving, which carries heavier sentences.

Tests using the new cameras will start soon but if successful, police hope to be able to use the technology nationwide within a year. The public prosecution department is also looking into the legal ramifications of the photography, including the quality of the images.

‘The photos must offer cast-iron proof,’ said public prosecution department spokeswoman Mariel van Dam. ‘The windows could be dirty or someone could simply be scratching their ear. People should not be given fines wrongly.’

Privacy experts have also questioned the plan. ‘This initiative will allow photographs of motorists to be collected,’ researcher Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius told the Volkskrant. ‘What will happen to the photos? I’m afraid that once the data is there, it will be kept.’

Currently photographs of car number plates are used to decide if motorists are breaking environmental zone laws. The tax office had also been using them to track the whereabouts of lease car drivers, but that has since been halted by the courts.

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