A new gadget – designed to deter drivers from using mobile phones at the wheel – is being piloted in East Anglia.
Norfolk County Council, working in partnership with police officers and a well-known road safety group, devised a signal detector – which can sense when a phone is being used in a car. This in turn triggers a warning sign at the roadside.
The authorities argue the system has been introduced in response to complaints by residents that motorists were routinely using their phones while driving.
Iain Temperton, a casualty reduction officer at the council, said: “Mobile phone use is the subject that drivers complain about most in other drivers and they want us to do something about it.
“We have had a complete mixture of feedback, from people who think it’s marvellous to people saying it’s a complete waste of time. People don’t like to be reprimanded over mobile phone use, it touches a nerve.”
However, motoring groups fear the technology could easily be adapted to create a speed camera-style network.
The problem about issuing fines in this way is that the device is not yet sophisticated enough to differentiate between whether it is the driver or passenger using a phone or if a motorist is using a perfectly legal hands-free kit.
Indeed, there have even been problems with passing pedestrians triggering the signs.
The council has conceded that the system does have its limitations at present, but Mr Temperton added that the device was being used as a “testbed” and hinted that the sensors could one day be linked to cameras or automatic number plate recognition.
Olly Samways, a technical sales engineer for Westcotec, which produced the device, said: “At the moment we are not trying to develop a system for law enforcement but I assume it will happen in five to ten years.
“If it keeps progressing we will keep looking into it. There has been a lot of interest and we have had inquiries from other counties.”
Law enforcement agencies are taking an increasingly hard line against drivers who use mobile phones at the wheel, with those found guilty facing disqualification and a fine of up to £1000. Lester Morrill’s road traffic team can advise those facing charges on their best course of action. To find out more about how we can help you, please contact us.