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UK Testing Smart Road Signs That Detect in Car Phone Use

Dominique Adams


texting and driving

As motorists continue to use their mobile phone at the wheel, new high-tech road signs are being trialled in a bid to curtail this reckless behaviour.

Developed by Norfolk-based company Westcotec, it is hoped that these signs will encourage motorists to stop using their phones at the wheel. One drawback of the tech is that it cannot identify who is using the phone. So, even if it is a passenger happily texting away the sign will still flash.

However, the aim of the smart road signs is not to stop drivers using their phone but to educate them. The sign does not include cameras to record cars, but it will record statistics on mobile phone use in cars.

Westcotec’s smart road signs have two separate but linked parts. First is its antenna, which picks up various mobile signal standards. The second is the LED display, which is installed further down the road. When it detects a radio signal from the antenna the LED will flash up and hopefully remind drivers to shift their focus back to the road.

Updated Version Can Detect Bluetooth Use

Originally designed in 2014, the first prototype quickly became outdated due to the rapid development of mobile phone technology. This new and improved version can process considerably more data and is more energy efficient.

Not only can detect Bluetooth connections, which will not trigger the smart road sign as it assumes the driver is using hands-free via the car’s internal system, it can also detect the strength and duration of the signal to ensure it is not constantly turning on and off.

Chris Spinks, a member of the Westcotect’s sales and marketing team, said of the system: “So many people, by force of habit, can’t resist using their phone. The system cannot differentiate between a driver and the passengers on a bus, for example, but this goes some way towards remotely warning drivers that they can be detected using their phone.”

Behind the Wheel Phone Use Still Rampant

According to a Freedom of Information, between 2017 and 2018 more than 20,000 motorists were caught using their mobile phones while driving, meaning police were catching 70 people per day.

Inspector Jonathan Chapman from Norfolk Roads Policing said: “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.”

Norfolk County Council road safety team will be working closely with the roads policing team to share statistics provided by the detection system. It is planned to keep the detection units on site for a month before being moved to a new location.


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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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