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New technology being used to crack down on drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel

Local police forces will be first in country to use new technology, as campaign begins next week

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

New technology being used to crack down on drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel

NEW technology will be rolled out on roads across Hampshire and the Thames Valley to crack down on drivers using mobile phones.

From today (Friday) Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police’s Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit will be the first  in the country to detect when drivers are using their phones without using a hands free device. 

The initiative is being backed by Kate Goldsmith who lost her 11-year-old daughter Aimee in a crash on the A34 near East Ilsley in August 2016. 

The new technology can detect how many cars on a particular stretch of road are using their phones without hands free, and officers say it will help them target particular hotspots for enforcement. 

Additionally, when someone using their phone is detected, the device will flash a mobile phone symbol at the car, advising them to stop using their device.

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 while driving. 

Today's announcement comes ahead of a week of enforcement and education activity as part of the National Police Chief’s Council campaign. 

The detector will be located on the A34 in Oxfordshire but will be posted at different locations throughout Hampshire and the Thames Valley in order to assist officers in enforcing the law around using mobile phones while driving. 

Additionally, officers will be stopping motorists caught using their mobile phone at locations throughout Hampshire and the Thames Valley.

Officers will also use a bus to spot drivers using mobile devices behind the wheel.

Anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving can get an automatic fixed penalty notice, six penalty points and a £200 fine.

The case could go to court and you could be disqualified from driving or riding and receive a maximum fine of £1,000. Drivers of buses or goods vehicles can receive a maximum fine of £2,500. 

Mrs Goldsmith's daughter died when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker ploughed into stationary traffic at 50mph, crushing a number of cars and killing Aimee, her stepbrothers Josh Houghton, aged 11, Ethan Houghton, aged 13, and the brother's mother Tracey Houghton, aged 45. 

Kroker had been using his mobile phone to change music while driving.

He was jailed for 10 years for each count of death by dangerous driving, to run concurrently.

He was also given four years for the count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, also to run concurrently, and disqualified from driving for a minimum of five years. 

Mrs Goldsmith, who has been campaigning over the use of mobile phones by drivers, 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.  

“Most mothers’ look forward to planning their daughter’s weddings. I had to plan Aimee’s funeral. 

“My son Jake was travelling in the car behind the one that Aimee was travelling in, thankfully he was uninjured, but he literally saw the moment that killed his sister. 

“Please take a minute to just think about that. Seeing your sister, brother, daughter, son or any person you love being killed.

“This was down to someone being distracted by their phone whilst driving a lethal weapon. My daughter’s death was completely avoidable. 

“Please don’t use your mobile phone whilst driving it’s not worth the risk.”

Roads safety officer for the Joint Operations Roads Policing Unit, Pc Liz Johnson,  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.

“In the Thames Valley since 2014 there have been 83 people killed or seriously injured as a result of drivers using their mobile phones and 40 have been killed or seriously injured Hampshire. 

“It is vital that people take notice and stop using their mobile phones whilst driving.

“The Joint Operations Unit will continue to educate people of the dangers of using a mobile phone whilst driving through our 'It’s Not Worth The Risk' campaign and reduce the devastating impact it can have on people’s lives. 

“We will be utilising the new technology from Westcotec to help inform our enforcement activity to find hotspots and also further educate motorists. 

"Additionally, officers will be carrying out enforcement activity throughout next week. We will be utilising a bus in order to travel around locations in the Thames Valley and Hampshire to spot motorists breaking the law and using mobile phones.

“My advice would be to turn off your phone whilst driving, put it out of reach, out of view so that more innocent people don’t lose their lives. Remember it’s not worth the risk.”

The new technology being used by the Joint Operations Unit has been developed by Norfolk company Westcotec.

Managing director Chris Spinks, said: “Our system is designed to provide intelligence to police officers so that they can carry out enforcement activity in order to reduce the amount of people who are using mobile phones illegally on our roads. 

“Our technology provides a visual sign to motorists who are using a mobile phone whilst driving without Bluetooth.

“We are pleased to be working with the Joint Operations Unit for Thames Valley and Hampshire Police to reduce the devastating impact of people driving whilst using a mobile phone.

“We will continue to develop new technologies so that we can help reduce people being injured and losing loved ones through the needless use of mobile phones whilst driving.” 

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Article comments

  • Just An Opinion

    12/04/2019 - 12:12

    I use my phone as a directional aid when driving somewhere new, or unfamiliar, it is connected to the in-car charger and I don't touch it, just listen to it. I assume this will still be permissible.........

    Reply

  • NoisyNortherner

    12/04/2019 - 09:09

    I'd be very interested as to how it differentiates between a phone sending and receiving signals of its own volition, and ones that are triggered by the user. I know that modern smartphones will quite often transmit without any user intervention. Still, I'm all for any effort to get people to stop using their mobiles, particularly messaging, while driving. There's no excuse for it.

    Reply