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 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 tested for the first time in Norfolk, the County Council confirmed.
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 by 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 new system
Inspector Jonathan Chapman of the Norfolk Roads Policing Unit praised the trial. “Any scheme which prevents this kind of behaviour is welcome. 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”, he argued.