driving cellphone

Road signs fitted with phone call detecting tech to warn naughty drivers

Image credit: DT

Road signs that can detect when drivers are using their phone while on the move are being deployed across Norfolk in an attempt to eradicate the accident-causing practice.

The system comprises a sensor capable of detecting vehicles where there are active 2G, 3G and 4G phone signals and an LED warning sign located a short distance along the road.

As long as the activation meets certain pre-determined parameters, the sensor will pick up that a driver is using a phone for calling, text or data purposes and will activate the warning sign. This shows an illuminated mobile phone icon within a bright red circle and diagonal red line.

The system can tell what the driver is doing on their phone due to the difference between active phone calls and other activities based on the strength of a signal and how long it lasts.

It can even detect if a driver is using Bluetooth and will not trigger the warning sign in this scenario.

“However, any system finds it hard to differentiate between users in the car, we accept that some activations might be triggered by non-driving occupants,” developers Westcotec said.

This device is purely for educational purposes at the moment and isn’t being used as a tool to aid in fines or prosecutions, although the ability to log offending number plates is being considered for development in the future.

Holding a phone while driving was outlawed in the UK in 2003 but 23 per cent of people admitted to taking a call in last year’s RAC Report on Motoring.

Inspector Jonathan Chapman from Norfolk Roads Policing said: “This scheme is a good example of how we can work with local authorities to make using a mobile phone whilst driving as socially unacceptable as drink or drug-driving.

“Any scheme which prevents this kind of behaviour is welcomed. Using a mobile phone at the wheel is one of the fatal four road offences which can have devastating consequences if it causes a fatal or serious collision.

“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.”

Norfolk County Council’s road safety team have worked with speed and warning sign specialists Westcott on deploying the next-level signs, which are a first for UK roads.

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.

“Whilst this is still not a perfect science, the new generation of sign is significantly more accurate and reliable than the first.”

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