Sky News:- Police have unveiled a new device which can detect when motorists are using their mobile phones while driving.
The new technology, created by Westcotec, can determine how many cars on a stretch of road have phones being used without hands-free kits.
When the device detects a phone being used it will flash a mobile phone symbol at the vehicle to advise the driver to stop using their phone – similar to the roadside LED displays which warn speeding motorists to “slow down”.
However, the detectors cannot tell if it is a driver or passenger using the phone.
Hampshire and Thames Valley police forces are the first to roll out use of the device which also allows officers to identify hotspots where mobile phones are frequently used by motorists.
A spokesman for the two forces said: “The technology can detect when Bluetooth is being used but cannot detect if a passenger is using the phone, but the sign will still be activated reminding motorists of the distraction of a mobile phone whilst driving.”
The campaign is being supported by Kate Goldsmith, who lost her daughter Aimee Goldsmith after a lorry driver crashed into the car she was a passenger in while he was using his mobile phone.
The 11-year-old was killed along with her stepbrothers Josh Houghton, 11, Ethan Houghton, 13, and the brothers’ mother Tracey Houghton, 45.
Lorry driver Tomasz Kroker crashed into the family’s stationary car at 50mph on the A34, near Newbury in Berkshire, on 10 August 2016 while scrolling through music on his mobile phone.
He was jailed for 10 years for killing the mother and three children.
Ms Goldsmith said: “I am supporting this campaign and welcome any technology which can assist in educating people and stop them from using their mobile phones whilst driving.
“My daughter’s death was completely avoidable.
“Please don’t use your mobile phone whilst driving, it’s not worth the risk.”
The new device will be first used on the A34 in Oxfordshire before being used across the rest of the Thames Valley and Hampshire police force areas.
PC Liz Johnson, a roads safety officer, said: “Research shows us that you are four times more likely to crash if you are using a mobile phone whilst driving, reaction times are around 50% slower than a driver not using a mobile phone.
“It is also apparent that you are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal collision when texting compared with drink driving.”
The RAC also welcomed the initiative and said it hoped it would encourage motorists to put their phones down and concentrate fully on driving.
“Driving and using a handheld phone do not mix, it is an incredibly dangerous and distracting combination,” spokesman Pete Williams said.
“While it will no doubt be argued that the technology cannot yet definitively detect drivers that are using handheld phones illegally, we are aware of camera equipment being trialled in other countries which can.
“We have made the Department for Transport aware of this.”