Drivers on Phone Detected by New Roadside System
Motorists that use a hand held phone shamed by new, innovative, electric sign system for a trial period in The UK
How the system detects mobile phone use
The Westcotec Mobile Phone Detection System that publicly shames motorists that break the law, endanger life, and behave irresponsibly by using a hand-held phone while driving is being utilised for the first time by Thames Valley Police and Hampshire's Joint Operations Unit. The detector is located on the A34 in Oxfordshire but will be posted at different locations covering the Thames Valley and Hampshire in order to assist police officers in enforcing the law around motorists using their mobile phones whilst driving.
Consider how it works. The system sits close to the road and scans for 2G, 3G and 4G mobile phone signals. It further measures the strength of such signals and the period of activation. If, therefore, a sufficiently strong signal appears as a vehicle approaches the system concludes that the mobile phone is within it.
Signal detection triggers a nearby, electronic, sign on a lamppost to come to life. The motorist then passes the sign that incorporates a picture of a phone surrounded by a red circle. The line through the phone reminds the offender that it is illegal, immoral, and dangerous to operate a hand-held mobile while driving.
The Westcotec Mobile Phone Detection System cannot penalise the offender, though. There is no fine, no penalty points and no roadside chat with a police officer. However, the lack of enforcement is likely to change in the future if the trial is successful. “We plan to work toward it”, the manufacturer revealed.
There are further limitations at this trial stage. The system cannot confirm who in the car is making a call, sending a text message or surfing the internet. Is it the driver, the front passenger or a child in the back? “We accept some activations might be triggered by non-driving occupants”, the manufacturer confirmed.
However, Westcotec is not concerned with this limitation. “We do not see a problem” if the sign is activated by the phone of a passenger, it said. “It is all part of the education message that using a phone when driving is not only illegal but very dangerous.”
There are additional points to consider. Bluetooth enables motorists to make phone calls hands free – and therefore legally – while driving. Bluetooth can be detected by the system so such motorists cannot trigger the electric sign. Furthermore, if the trial is successful the system might become commonplace nationwide.
Police praise the new system
The system was initially trialled in Norfolk last year to help the police determine where behind-the-wheel phone use was most prevalent.
PC Liz Johnson, a Roads Safety Officer for the Hampshire’s and Thames Valley’s Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit, said:
“It is vital that people take notice and stop using their mobile phones whilst driving.
“Research shows us that you are four times more likely to crash if you are using a mobile phone whilst driving, and reaction times are around 50% slower than a driver not using a mobile phone.
“My advice would be to turn off your phone whilst driving, put it out of reach, out of view so that more innocent people don’t lose their lives. Remember It’s not worth the risk.”