New cameras that aim to capture drivers using mobile phones while driving are being tested by the police.
The system, which is able to also be used to determine whether the drivers are wearing seatbelts, is currently being tested on select routes throughout Devon and Cornwall in the coming two months.
The trial is paid for through the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, and is managed by Devon and Cornwall Police.
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Senior Supt Adrian Leisk, strategic roads police chief in Devon and Cornwall Police, stated: “Using a mobile phone while driving is risky and illegal. It puts the life of the driver as well as other road users in danger and is unacceptable.
“Despite frequent messages, as well as a modification to the law that makes phone contact on a mobile when driving an automobile illegal, there are still a few who do not follow the laws.
“We are employing this new technology to send a clear message to anyone who continues to use their phone behind the wheel – you will get caught.”
Ascensus is housed inside a vehicle that is equipped with multiple cameras, which capture footage of motorists passing by.
The images captured by cameras are processed by AI (AI) for determining whether drivers were using a phone, or if drivers and passengers were wearing the use of a seat belt. It also can determine the speed at which a vehicle was moving when the camera was taken.
Images in which the possibility of a crime is identified are then scrutinized. If a violation was correctly detected the driver will receive a warning notice or a notice of intent to prosecute, based on the degree of the offense.
Leisk said: “Whether it’s by the Acusensus cameras, a passing officer or on video footage submitted through Op Snap, the result will be the same and you will end up with a hefty fine and six penalty points – which could be enough to cost some drivers their license.”
The year 2020 was the first time a nationwide road safety study was requested through Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and then APCC director of road safety.
Of the 66,000 respondents who took part in the survey, 55% reported that they had witnessed traffic violations like using the mobile phone, and not wearing a seatbelt on a regular basis, while 21% reporting they saw them weekly.
Additionally 81% of the respondents were in agreement that traffic violations require greater enforcement.
Commissioner Hernandez who is also the chairman of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership Commissioner Hernandez, who is also chairman of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, stated: “Road safety is one of the four main priorities of the Police and Crime Plan. There are far too many people who are seriously injured or killed by Devon or Cornwall’s roadways.
“We recognize the dangers of distracted driving, which is a frequent accident causing factor, which is the reason it is not legal to use a mobile while driving.
“By embracing new technology such as the Acusensus system, we have the opportunity to improve compliance with these laws and consequently make our roads safer for everyone.”
Dr Jamie Uff, technical director of AECOM Dr Jamie Uff, technical director at AECOM, stated: “Despite the often-reported dangers of driving distracted and not buckling up properly however, the number of people killed or injured due to these actions are still extremely high.
“The technology AECOM employs helps detect criminals and provides valuable information for the police and policy makers about the current state of road traffic user behavior. We’re eager to utilize this equipment to increase awareness and increase road safety for all.”
RAC Road safety spokesperson Simon Williams welcomed the use of technology and has requested that it be tested over a period of four years.
“The police can’t be everywhere all of the time so it makes sense that forces look at how technology can be used to help them catch drivers acting dangerously and illegally,” the officer said.
“These are alarming figures and, if used on all roads in the nation, it would suggest that there’s a massive problem in the case of drivers not buckled in or using their mobiles without permission.
“Drivers are widely supportive of tougher enforcement of the law around handheld mobile phone use, with nearly half of these (47%) saying that camera technology like this is the best way of doing so.”