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Controversial seatbelt cameras smash a family with three fines in six months despite photos showing their young son ‘distressed and crying’ in the car

  • Seatbelt cameras are in use in Queensland
  • Young dad hit with repeated fines after son pulled at belt
  • Hi-tech cameras are being rolled out in other states

A young father nearly lost his license after he was slapped with multiple penalties from automatic seatbelt cameras when his autistic son became distressed as their car entered a tunnel. 

Marty Smith, from Queensland‘s Sunshine Coast region, was driving with his 10-year-old son Sebastian, who has level 3 autism, when he was pinged by the camera on three separate occasions between June and November last year. 

The boy’s mother Rachel said the family were moving house in that period which had raised Sebastian’s anxiety and that it would have been dangerous to try and fix his seatbelt while driving.

‘He would go in the car for an hour and about the time that we’d hit the tunnel, he would cry and become very distressed,’ Ms Smith told The Sunday Mail.

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‘Obviously in the tunnel, you can’t pull over. So we just had to kind of drive until we were safely able to pull off the road.

In another case, a family was fined in Queensland after a parent was holding a child on their lap with a seatbelt around them (pictured)

In another case, a family was fined in Queensland after a parent was holding a child on their lap with a seatbelt around them (pictured) 

‘The photos of him show him crying. You can see the seatbelt on him still, but he’s pulled it off because he’s so distressed and rocking.’

The family obtained a medical exemption in September last year, however, this was only applied to the third fine and they were still being chased over the first two.

In Queensland the penalty for not wearing or incorrectly wearing a seatbelt is $1078 and four demerit points for each occasion – applied to the driver as well as any offending passenger over 16.

Medical exemptions can be granted but these must be reapplied for yearly. 

Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said he was ‘concerned’ to hear of the family’s situation and all three fines would be waived after he was contacted by the newspaper last week.

He said his government would now look into changing the rules allowing permanent exemptions and retroactive exemptions for some people with disability.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey (pictured) said the family would be getting exemptions for all three fines

Transport Minister Mark Bailey (pictured) said the family would be getting exemptions for all three fines

The family’s case was first raised in Queensland Parliament by deputy Opposition leader Jarrod Bleijie who said the Labor government was only acting now because the media had become involved.

The cameras, which use artificial intelligence to detect those breaking seatbelt rules, have been deployed in Queensland since November 2021 and have dished out tens of thousands of fines.

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In 2020, similar mobile phone detection cameras were rolled out in NSW. These were tested in November last year to also detect seatbelt offences though these are yet to be enforced.

The Victorian government as announced it will rollout both phone and seatbelt cameras – with three in operation by mid-2023 following a two-year pilot program.

Victorian authorities have approved about 2,000 locations across the state where the mobile cameras can operate. 

WA, SA and the ACT are also moving to introduce the cameras, while Tasmania will trial them later this year. 

The hi-tech cameras are often mobile (pictured) and can be deployed to different areas

The hi-tech cameras are often mobile (pictured) and can be deployed to different areas

SEATBELT FINES IN EACH STATE AND TERRITORY

Queensland – $1078 and four demerit points

NSW – $298 and three demerit points

Victoria – $370 and three demerit points

WA – $550 and four demerit points

SA – $381 and three demerit points

Tasmania – $350 and three demerit points

Northern Territory – $500 and three demerit points

ACT – $353 and three demerit points

In most states and territories drivers and passengers are fined for passengers not wearing seatbelts. In Queensland demerit points also apply to the driver for each passenger not complying.

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