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New mobile phone detection signs trialled in Norfolk

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Norfolk County Council is trialling road signs that detect when drivers are using a mobile phone.

The council’s road safety team has been working in partnership with Westcotec, a local company, to develop and deploy the new mobile phone detection system for use on the county’s roads. 

Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of the communities committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “Using a mobile phone whilst driving is an enormous distraction and apart from being illegal puts the lives of the driver, passengers and pedestrians at risk.  We are delighted to have been able to partner with Westcotec to trial the new technology across Norfolk.”

Using the latest technology, the unit is able to identify what type of signal is being transmitted or received by the handset and whether it is being used via the vehicle’s Bluetooth system. 

When the relevant signal is detected indicating that a mobile phone is being used within the vehicle (not via Bluetooth), the road sign is activated as the vehicle passes, giving a specific flashing visual message that will prompt a driver to stop using their phone.

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.”

There is no facility to record specific number plates at this time, although this is likely to be a future development. 

Norfolk County Council road safety team will be working closely with the roads policing team to share statistics provided by the detection system.

Inspector Jonathan Chapman from Norfolk Roads Policing unit 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. 

“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.”

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  • brett - 17/07/2018 11:15

    it better have a front facing camera if they plan to include taking reg plates... as I bet these things will be less reliable than the speed signs that tell you when your over the limit.

  • Mike Butterworth - 17/07/2018 11:17

    So are we now saying that one is not allowed to use a Bluetooth system in the car at all? These systems are designed to be used in the vehicle, not just for calls but for music, maps etc. I totally agree with the penalties for using a hand held communication device, but Bluetooth is there for many other reasons too, unless this is a visual indication of someone physically holding their phone then it is pointless.

    • Gareth Roberts - 17/07/2018 11:24

      Hi Mike, if Bluetooth is detected the sign does not activate because it recognises that a hands-free call is being made. I've now updated the story to make this clearer.

  • Cabcurtains - 17/07/2018 11:34

    How does the system know that a passenger isn’t using a phone? Presumably it can’t, so it incriminates the whole vehicle. Covert roads policing is the only way to sort the roads out.

  • Simon - 17/07/2018 11:37

    Hope the system can distinguish between the driver using the mobile and passengers...

  • Winston - 17/07/2018 13:42

    I've had warning signs flash me for allegedly doing over 30 when I was absolutely not doing so - infuriating. Will this innovation be any more accurate, I wonder. Unless it can distinguish between the driver and a passenger, what's the point. Education, more police patrols and more prosecutions is the way forward.

  • CRB - 18/07/2018 09:14

    "Oh no, a sign is flashing at me, better end my call!" Yeah, who really believes that the 17-20 year old girls and boys, and the white van men will be thinking that?

  • Angie Keech - 20/07/2018 15:47

    I think this is a fabulous idea but the majority of drivers won't see the sign flashing as they'll be too busy looking at their phones. To link this with a camera would be even better

  • mr steven graves - 12/04/2019 13:56

    will this sign light/flash when using google maps/navigation

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