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AI tech to find motorists using phones

The ‘sensor test vehicle’ is already patrolling some of England’s motorways and A-roads.

Mobile technology that can automatically detect motorists who are using their phones or not wearing a seatbelt could be the future for roads policing. 

A ‘sensor test vehicle’, equipped with multiple cameras that can record footage of passing motorists, is currently being trialled by Warwickshire and National Highways across the next three months.

Images taken by the cameras are processed using AI which can determine if motorists were using a handheld phone and if anyone in the car was not wearing a seatbelt. 

The force will have the option of reviewing the footage that is collated, but it will be National Highways who operate the van. The data will also help with understanding the extent of drivers committing these offences. 

Drivers will be sent warning letters as a consequence - informing them of the dangers of what they are doing and reminding them that their actions could be eligible for a fine and penalty points. Only the most serious breaches would be prosecuted during this trial period. 

Additional future technology may also be able to identify tailgating offences- although this does not come under the current trial. 

In 2019, 420 collisions in Britain involved a driver using a mobile phone. 

National Highways Head of Road Safety Jeremy Phillips said: “Safety remains our top priority and we want everyone to get to their destination safely.

"Sadly, there are still drivers who do not feel the need to wear a seatbelt, become distracted by their phones or travel too close to the vehicle in front. We want to see if we can change driver behaviour and therefore improve road safety for everyone. Our advice is clear; please leave enough space, buckle up and give the road your full attention.”

Inspector Jem Mountford of Warwickshire Police said: “We are really excited to see the impact that this new technology has on the behaviour of drivers in Warwickshire.

“Our officers deal with the tragic circumstances of collisions where often innocent people have been killed or seriously injured because a driver was distracted by a mobile phone or someone was not wearing a seatbelt.  These collisions are preventable but we need all road users to do the right thing and comply with the law to make our roads safer.” 

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