UK’s first mobile phone detection technology on trial in Norfolk
Norfolk County Council has announced it is trialing a new mobile phone detection system for use on the county’s roads.
The new system will be used to identify mobile phone use from within a vehicle and is the first system of its kind to be used on the roads in the UK.
Using the latest technology, the unit 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.
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.
Despite this it is unable to pick up whether the driver is using the phone or a passenger but it is hoped it will act as a deterrent to people making calls behind the wheel.
Diane Steiner, deputy director of public health, said: “Our priority in Public Health is to make Norfolk a healthy and safe place to live and the new technology enables us to provide a reminder to drivers who may be using their handset whilst driving.
“While this is still not a perfect science, the new generation of sign is significantly more accurate and reliable than the first.”
There is no facility to record specific number plates at this time, although this is likely to be a future development. Norfolk County Council road safety team will be working closely with the roads policing team to share statistics provided by the detection system.
It is planned to keep the detection units on site for a month before being moved to a new location. Roads policing will then use the intelligence provided by the units to enforce at the same location.
Inspector Jonathan Chapman from Norfolk Roads Policing unit said: “This scheme is a good example of how we can work with local authorities to make using a mobile phone while driving as socially unacceptable as drink or drug-driving.
“Any scheme which prevents this kind of behaviour is welcomed […] we will be using the information provided by Norfolk County Council’s road safety team to help us target drivers in the future but the message is simple – leave your phone alone whilst you’re behind the wheel.”
The announcement comes after tough new rules were introduced in 2017 which means that drivers caught now face the possibility of a £200 fine and six penalty points on their licence. This makes UK penalties harsher than those of France, Italy and Germany.
7,966 drivers using their phone behind the wheel were apprehended in a single week during a crackdown after this introduction last year, with officers handing out an average of 47 fines an hour during the November campaign.
Apple introduced a new feature called Do Not Disturb While Driving as part of the new iOS 11 software upgrade released last year, withholding notifications of texts, instant messages and updates while the car is on the move and connected via Bluetooth or cable, aiming to prevent drivers who would normally be distracted picking up the device in the first place.