Australian police go undercover as windscreen washers to catch drivers using phones
Access to mobile phones has never been easier, with cheaper handheld units and the rise of communication platforms. There are more people who own mobile phones than ever before. This in turn also translates to the illegal use of mobile phones on the road while driving. In most countries, this is a criminal offence with hefty fines and penalties. With this, it is becoming more difficult to police due to the sheer volume of vehicles compared to police officers. Police forces all over the world are trying to find ways to efficiently catch those who are using mobile phones while in charge of a wheel.
This was until the Australian police in Sydney’s Beverley Hills area found a way to go undercover as windscreen washers to catch out unwitting drivers distracted by their phones. Motorists have claimed that a police officer dressed as a window washer with wearing caps on backward and sunglasses carrying window cleaning equipment. Police officers are seen monitoring motorists while on top of overpasses in a busy intersection to offer better vantage points over drivers.
Once an officer sees a mobile phone being used, they send the signal to fellow officers further down the road to stop them and incur around £247 fine and a penalty of 5 points on their licence, unless drink driving lawyers manage to find an alternative. Drivers have started noticing the ‘window washers’ with vehicle dash cameras and have posted them on social media platforms such as Reddit, with the police force thereafter admitting their new sneaky policing tactic. This tactic has received mixed reviews with praise from some people and also criticism, to no surprise at all.
This is not the only place in Australia that has had a similar strategy in catching out mobile phone users. Victorian police in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Nunadwading have also implemented an undercover windscreen washer trick to hide from the offenders. The police officers wore high-vis jackets with radio displaying their badges to drivers, according to witnesses. Undercover police were stood by traffic lights checking for offenders even when the vehicle is completely stationary. There has been a confirmation of 38 fines issued according to a police spokeswoman. The Victorian law states that motorists caught on their mobile phones in the area are faced up to a £270 fine with a four-point penalty.
It is illegal for roadside window washers to solicit money from motorists in Australia, which has sparked outrage from people within its local community saying that the new police tactics show the force’s hypocritical way of catching people out. The force has however stipulated that there were no acts of cleaning windscreens. Therefore, they were not infringing any rules as the squeegees are part of the disguise while they catch the distracted drivers. Using any functions of a mobile phone is illegal, even when in use to navigate when not in a fixed position. It is also illegal for drivers to use a mobile device when stationary that is not parked, for example at a set traffic lights on red.
With more and more motorists using phones while driving, this new strategy shows the lengths the police would go to ensure motorists safety on the road.