Motorists who use their mobile phones while driving are to be shamed by a pioneering new roadside detection system being trialled in a UK city for the first time.
The first of three, £6,000 electronic signs are being introduced on the roads of Norwich, Norfolk, today.
The signs can can detect when signals are being transmitted by a handset inside a car.
It then flashes a symbol of a mobile phone with a line through it to remind drivers not to touch their handsets while behind the wheel.
Although the signs cannot tell whether a driver or passenger is using a handset it is hope they will help remind people of the dangers of using phones while driving.
Norfolk County Council’s Road Safety team have developed the technology in partnership with vehicle sign technology local company Westcotec.
The technology cannot record cars’ registration or issue fines, but the data it collects will be shared with Norfolk police to set up potential future crackdowns.
An educational tool
Chris Spinks, of Westcotec’s Sales and Marketing team, said he hoped it could provide police with a general view of where illegal use is most prevalent.
Westcotec, who are based in Dereham, Norfolk, are working with authorities across the world – including those in Argentina, Slovenia and New Zealand – to implement the mobile phone warning technology.
Mr Spinks said: “The aim of the technology is to remind drivers of the law and to get off their phones.”
Those caught using their mobile phones at the wheel by the police face a £200 fine and six points on their licence, following the introduction of tougher laws last year.
Norfolk police have been particularly eager to crackdown on phone use at the wheel, with more than 120 people caught committing the offence during Operation Ringtone – which ran in the county in January.
Jonathan Chapman, inspector of the Norfolk Roads Policing Unit said: “We will be using the information to help us target drivers in the future but the message is simple – leave your phone alone whilst you’re behind the wheel.
“Using a 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.”
Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s 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 this new technology across Norfolk.”
Iain Temperton, team manager for road safety at the county council, described the technology as ‘cutting-edge’ and said it would be used an ‘educational tool’ throughout Norfolk to tackle the problem.
Mr Spinks said: “Being a local company we’re delighted to be able to trial this technology first in Norfolk.
“We are glad to assist Norfolk County Council in promoting awareness about the dangers of mobile phone use in the car.”
After its launch on Holt Road, Norwich, the equipment will then move on to Cromer Road in Holt, Shipdham Road in Toftwood and Norwich Road in Attleborough.