New tech to detect when drivers use phone at wheel

Warning sign driving phone

DRIVERS using their mobile phones at the wheel will be confronted with a flashing sign with new technology being brought in to cut deaths and injuries. The device will scan the 2G, 3G and 4G bandwidths to pick up signals, and through some manner of electronic voodoo, determines if the origin of those signals is moving.

The technology - which can't distinguish between a driver and a passenger using a handheld phone - does not automatically record footage and won't be used to automatically fine drivers at this stage, although future developments could make this possible.

When a driver is detected to be using their phone, a flashing smartphone symbol will appear on a device used by the police, advising people to stop using their devices.

Kate Goldsmith's daughter was one of four people killed in the crash when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was using his phone at the wheel in 2016.

This new campaign, which was trialled in Norfolk last year, has been supported by bereaved families, such as Kate Goldsmith, who last her 11-year-old daughter, Aimee, due to a lorry driver crashing into the vehicle she was passenger in while changing music on his phone.

Kate's 13-year-old son Jake survived, but she says he was left "traumatised by the crash and deaths of Aimee and his best friend".

The device will also be used to determine areas on the roads which are hotspots for motorists using their phone while behind the wheel.

The first two devices - costing £6,000 each - are set to be installed at two locations on the A34 in Oxfordshire, before being rolled out across further sites in the Thames Valley and Hampshire regions.

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This could trigger more fines or heftier punishments being handed out to motorists.

"The Joint Operations Unit will continue to educate people of the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst driving through our "It's Not Worth The Risk" campaign and reduce the devastating impact it can have on people's lives".

The technology can detect when Bluetooth is being used but cannot detect if a passenger is using the phone, but the sign will still be activated reminding motorists of the distraction of a mobile phone whilst driving.

"It is also apparent that you are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal collision when texting compared with drink driving".

Rule breakers will get an automatic fixed penalty notice and penalty points on their license, as well as a fine of £200.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams added: "Driving and using a handheld phone do not mix, it is an incredibly unsafe and distracting combination".

The RAC also welcomed the initiative and said it hoped it would encourage motorists to put their phones down and concentrate fully on driving.

"We have made the Department for Transport aware of this".

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