Norfolk CC has launched a unique scheme to tackle drivers using their mobile phones while on the road – an offence punishable with a maximum fine of £1000 if taken to court and £2500 if driving a bus, coach, or heavy goods vehicle.
A Mobile Phone Detection System (MPDS) has been installed on Norwich’s Martineau Lane for the next month and is set to be rolled out across the county, targeting those using a mobile phone in a vehicle whether on a phone call or texting.
Designed by Dereham-based safety sign specialist, Westcotec, the portable system is exclusive to Norfolk and uses a roadside sensor to monitor oncoming vehicles.
This sensor then sends information to a road sign further along the road, which flashes warnings when mobile phone use has been detected in the vehicle.
Iain Temperton, road safety manager at Norfolk CC said: ‘We have been trialling the MPDS at a number of locations in Norfolk and it's proved to be a flexible and extremely useful piece of equipment that we're now ready to roll out across the county.
‘The system can't detect whether its a passenger using a phone in a vehicle or whether a hands-free device is being used. But of course, those people don't need to be worried if they get a flash from the sign. But for those drivers who are on their mobiles, the system is a powerful, effective and very public reminder that they have been detected, and that they are putting those around them at real risk by doing so.’
Chief inspector Chris Spinks, head of Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit, said: ‘Driving while using a mobile phone is dangerous because it distracts your attention from the road. You can’t second-guess the actions of other road users and therefore need to be alert and concentrating 100% to be in a position to deal with the unexpected. I welcome any innovations in technology which can be used alongside traditional methods to improve safety on our roads.’
The scheme is the latest in the partnership between the Think! road safety campaign and Norfolk CC to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on our roads. The safety initiative asks drivers about the 'fatal four' driving behaviours: 'Why wouldn't you... Drive sober? Belt up? Ignore it? Slow down?'
The news comes as the latest government figures for KSIs showed a 8% spike in serious cyclist casaulties, with an overall increase of 4% from 2013.