Drivers filmed to catch mobile phone and seatbelt offences

National Highways has deployed a van with multiple cameras to film passing vehicles on motorways and major A roads.

29 July 2022

Drivers are being filmed to catch those holding a mobile phone or not wearing a seatbelt.

National Highways has deployed a van with multiple cameras to film passing vehicles on motorways and major A roads.

The footage is analysed using artificial intelligence to determine if motorists were using a handheld phone or whether any vehicle occupants were not wearing a seatbelt.

The van, which is stationary at the side of the road while in use, is being trialled for nearly three months in partnership with Warwickshire Police.

It is capable of being fitted with additional technology to detect tailgating, although that is not part of the pilot scheme.

Drivers spotted committing mobile phone or seatbelt offences are issued with warning letters by police and asked to complete a survey to assist National Highways’ research.

The use of the detection van is part of National Highways’ commitment to eliminating deaths and serious injuries on its roads by 2040.

Government figures show 17 people were killed and a further 114 were seriously injured in crashes on Britain’s roads in 2020 in which a driver using a phone was a contributory factor.

Nearly a quarter of all car occupant fatalities in 2020 were not wearing a seatbelt when the crash happened.

A trial of a fixed camera on the M4 in Berkshire last year detected more than 25,000 drivers holding a phone and nearly 7,000 people failing to belt up in just six months.

It was the first time this technology has been used in the UK.

The same system was deployed in New South Wales, Australia, in 2019.

Over the last two years there has been a “significant and sustained reduction in road fatalities” compared with other states and territories in the country, according to National Highways.

The Government-owned company’s head of road safety, Jeremy Phillips, said: “Sadly, there are still drivers who do not feel the need to wear a seatbelt, become distracted by their phones or travel too close to the vehicle in front.

“We want to see if we can change driver behaviour and therefore improve road safety for everyone.

“Our advice is clear: please leave enough space, buckle up and give the road your full attention.”

A driver holding a mobile phone
Motorists can be handed six penalty points and a £200 fine for holding a phone while they are behind the wheel (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Inspector Jem Mountford, of Warwickshire Police, said: “During the trial the most serious breaches may be prosecuted, with others receiving warning letters, giving us the opportunity to explain how they have been caught and asking them to change their behaviour.

“Next time they may not be so lucky.”

Dr Jamie Uff, a technical director at consultancy AECOM, which is providing the technology, said it “makes detection straightforward”.

He added that the trial is “providing valuable insight to the police and policymakers on the current level of road user behaviour”.

Motorists can be handed six penalty points and a £200 fine for holding a phone when they are behind the wheel.

In the most serious cases taken to court, offenders can be handed a fine of up to £2,500.

The maximum punishment for not wearing a seatbelt is a £500 fine.

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