A unique system to detect drivers using a mobile phone behind the wheel has been launched in Norfolk.
It is part of the latest enforcement campaign by Think! Norfolk to discourage motorists from using a mobile phone while driving and remind them it is one of the biggest causes of accidents and fatalities on the roads.
It comes as police in Norfolk and Suffolk take part in a nationwide campaign, led by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), targeting drivers using mobile phones this week. Patrols will be carried out in marked and unmarked vehicles to prevent and detect offences.
It is also the latest move in the Think! Norfolk partnership’s push to reduce the number of people seriously injured on the county’s roads and the ‘fatal four’ behaviours which cause accidents, asking motorists: ‘Why wouldn’t you... Drive sober? Belt up? Ignore it? Slow down?’.
The Mobile Phone Detection System (MPDS), designed by Dereham-based safety sign specialists Westcotec, has recently been installed in Norwich to launch the partnership’s initiative. It will remain in the city for six weeks before moving to other towns around the county.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Police said the system would be heading to Thetford and Diss within the next few months.
Designed exclusively for Norfolk, the portable system has been welcomed by many road safety groups. The system targets those using a mobile phone, whether talking on the phone or sending or receiving a text message. A roadside sensor detects oncoming vehicles, sending information to a sign further up the road which flashes if mobile phone use is detected within the vehicle.
Cllr Jenny Chamberlin, vice chair of Norfolk County Council’s Road Casualty Reduction Partnership Board, said: “Using a mobile phone whilst driving is well known to be extremely distracting, very dangerous and ultimately incredibly selfish because motorists who do it are not only putting their own lives at risk, but also their passengers and other road users, whether motorists or pedestrians.
“So I fully support any campaign which aims to deter people from doing it.”
Motorists caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel will be served with a £60 fixed penalty notice, which rises to a £1,000 fine if they are taken to court, and have their licence endorsed with three penalty points.
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.”
Iain Temperton, road safety manager at Norfolk County Council, said the MPDS had been trialled at a number of locations around the county. Although it cannot detect if it is a passenger using the mobile phone, or if a call is being made through a hands-free system, Mr Temperton said it was found to be a ‘flexible and extremely useful piece of equipment’.
“The system is a powerful, effective and very public reminder that motorists have been detected, and that they are putting those around them at real risk by doing so,” he said.