MELBOURNE, AAP – The Victorian government will spend $33.7 million to roll out new road-safety cameras capable of detecting drivers using their mobile phones behind the wheel.

A trial of the technology was conducted over a three-month period last year, assessing almost 680,000 vehicles.

It found one in 42 drivers were using their mobile phone while behind the wheel.

The highest rates of mobile phone use were on Craigieburn Road East in Wollert, with a one-in-18 offence rate; Calder Park Drive in Hillside with a one-in-21 offence rate; and Old Geelong Road in Laverton with a one-in-28 offence rate.

One in 667 drivers were also caught not wearing a seatbelt, while others were spotted driving without hands on the wheel or with pets on laps.

“Using your phone while driving is unbelievably dangerous, and this trial has showed just how common it is on Victorian roads,” Acting Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson said on Friday.

“It’s unacceptable that so many Victorians are putting others’ lives at risk.”

The trial was conducted from July to October 2020, while the state was under stage-four lockdown, and authorities believe the rate of offending will be higher as traffic returns to previous levels.

The distracted-driving technology, which is already in place across NSW, uses an artificial-intelligence enabled camera system to capture high-resolution images of vehicles in all traffic and weather conditions, at any time of the day.

Images that are deemed likely to contain a mobile-phone offence are then verified by trained personnel.

Research from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre has estimated the technology has the capacity to prevent 95 fatal crashes a year.

Further consultation with stakeholders, testing and demonstrations, as well as a public awareness campaign, will take place before the technology becomes enforceable in 2023.

The government is also working on legislation to ensure those caught are fined.

Currently, the penalty for driving distracted in Victoria is a $496 fine and four demerit points.