Norfolk is the first place in the UK to trial new mobile phone detection technology

10 July 2018

Norfolk County Council’s Road Safety team have been working in partnership with Westcotec, a local company, to develop and deploy a new mobile phone detection system for use on the county’s roads.  The new system will be used to identify mobile phone use from within a vehicle.  It will be the first system of its kind to be used on the roads in the UK and is to be launched in Norfolk on 10 July.

Margaret Dewsbury Chairman of Communities Committee 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, 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.”

Chris Spinks, Specialist Product Sales, Westcotec said:  “Being a local company we’re delighted to be able to trial this technology first within Norfolk, we’ve worked very closely with the road safety team at Norfolk County Council to get to this position and are glad that we’re able to assist them in promoting awareness about the dangers of mobile phone use in the car”.

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.  The initial identified locations of the detection units are:

  • Holt Road, Norwich
  • Cromer Road, Holt
  • Shipdham Road, Toftwood
  • Norwich Road, Attleborough

It is planned to keep the detection units on site for a month before being moved to a new location.  Roads policing will then use the intelligence provided by the units to enforce at the same location.

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.  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.”

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