Dutch Police Throw In MONOcam
Against Driver Distraction
1 AUG - A new type of smart cameras was introduced by the Netherlands in their fight against driver distraction.
Being distracted in traffic is one of the biggest causes of car accidents in the country after speeding and intoxicated driving. ‘We are fighting this by deploying officers, but also by using technical solutions, such as the MONOcam,' says ROADPOL Council member Paul Broer, who recently took over the responsibility for the strategic theme “Traffic” within the Dutch police force from his predecessor Egbert-Jan van Hasselt.
The device was inspired by Van Hasselt and for the larger part it was in-house developed by the Dutch police force. The name is derived from the Force's “Mono” campaign based on the notion that a driver should only do one thing – drive. "When you drive, you should focus on traffic. You are undisturbed on the road. No distraction from your smartphone. So you keep your eyes on the road and not on your screen”, the campaign advises.
The MONOcam is a mobile camera on a tripod. The device can be placed both inside and outside built-up areas. The camera comes with a software developed by the Dutch police. This software enables the MONOcam to "recognize" drivers who have a mobile device in their hands. For a fine to be imposed it is only necessary that the driver is holding a cell phone without the police needing to prove what it was used for - making a phone call, using an app, operating a navigation system or scrolling through a music playlist. If the MONOcam captures a suspicious arm position it shoots and then relays the the photo to an officer from Team Traffic. The officer assess whether there has been a device use. If so, then a second officer checks the image for a final conclusion. If there is a violation, the officer sends everything to the Central Fine Collection Agency (CJIB), which then sends the fine to the civilian. The first of the so-called smart MONOcams was recently handed over to its first regional police unit. All Dutch regional police units will be getting such a smart cameras in the near future.
The MONOcam has been technically tested for the past eighteen months including a check on its personal-data legislation compliance. “The Dutch Data Protection Authority approved the process. This means that with MONOcam we are complying with the laws and regulations on privacy”, says Broer. This is achieved by the software automatically blacking out the faces of possible fellow passengers with only the driver's face visible. The images of the camera are briefly stored on the laptop that comes with the MONOcam. As soon as the officers have reviewed the images of a check and forwarded them to the CJIB, the images are erased. Photos of violators then remain stored only with the CJIB as is already the case with photos taken by radar sets and speed cameras. Broer expects the deployment of the MONOcam to contribute to more safety on Dutch roads. “An accident can easily happen, and the consequences of being distracted while driving can be enormous. In 2020 there were 610 traffic deaths and over 20,000 injuries in the Netherlands. Distraction played a role in many of them”, Broer concludes.