Friday, 16 November, 2018

Norfolk targets drivers with new mobile phone detection system

Driving stock People using their phones while driving will be getting warning messages if they do so in Norfolk. Jonathan Brady- PA Images
Cecil Davis | 14 July, 2018, 11:56

The sign, which for the next four weeks will be at Holt Road, Norwich, is able to identify what type of signal is being transmitted or received by the handset and whether it is being used via the vehicle's Bluetooth system.

The pioneering new roadside detection system is now being tested in Norwich, but if it's successful, it could be rolled out on streets across the globe.

The first of three £6,000 signs to be used in the trial in Norwich began operating yesterday.

Norfolk county council is installing Westcotec's roadside detector on one of the bits of the A140 it oversees, and claims it can pick up the radio signals emitted when someone's connected to a call; using this to illuminate a warning-not-to sign farther down the road.

Although the signs can't tell whether a driver or passenger is using a handset, it is hoped they will act as a reminder of the dangers of using phones while driving. It won't be able to record registration numbers for the cars or issue fines, but it will still serve in future crackdowns by the police.

Chris Spinks, of Westcotec's Sales and Marketing team, said he hoped it could provide law enforcement with a general view of where illegal use is most prevalent.

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In a 2016 study, a third of motorists admitted to using a mobile behind the wheel, leading to the introduction of "tougher penalties to tackle the problem" in March past year, reports The Sunday Times.

In the United States and Australia, laws regulating the use of mobile phones and other electronics by motorists differ from state to state.

Norfolk police have been particularly eager to crackdown on phone use at the wheel, with more than 120 people caught committing the offence during Operation Ringtone - which ran in the county in January. "It is the first such system to have a direct interaction with a mobile phone offender".

When the relevant signal is detected indicating that a mobile phone is being used within the vehicle, the road sign is activated as the vehicle passes, giving a specific flashing visual message that will prompt a driver to stop using their phone. This applies for calls, texts or browsing online.

Using a mobile phone at the wheel now carries a punishment of six penalty points and a £200 fine, which was increased from three penalty points and a £100 fine past year.