UK Trying Out Warning Signs That Activate When Cell Phones Are Detected in Cars

The BBC reported on the UK's inception of a roadside system that detects if a mobile device is being utilized in passing vehicles.

Engineered by Westcotec, a traffic safety firm based in the UK, the system was officially launched at the TISPOL Conference in Manchester late last year. It was developed alongside Dr. Helen Wells, a criminologist who specializes in road traffic offense and driving behavior.

Just recently, it made its roadside debut in Norfolk in four different places.

How does it work?

The technology incorporates a sensor that is able to detect 2G, 3G and 4G phone signals. If it picks up extended phone use in a vehicle, such as calling or texting, the LED warning sign on the side of the road will illuminate.

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However, this system is able to determine if Bluetooth is being used, thus not warranting a warning.

As of yet, the system is strictly just to warn the driver not to use a mobile device. According to Westcotec, the device is "purely about education."

"So ironically, just as technology has enabled the problem of drivers using mobile phones illegally, it can also be a big part of the solution in getting people to stop."

Law enforcement currently has no involvement, although the plan is to move in that direction eventually.

Peter Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson, comments, "While this new signage is no replacement for a uniformed police officer catching someone in the act, it could be enough to make some drivers think twice - and that has to be a positive step forward.

Future development of the technology could lead to recording specific number plates and recording footage.

Jonathan Chapman of Norfolk Roads Policing unit reports, "Any scheme which prevents this kind of behaviour is welcomed."

There's been interest in the roadside system from Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, New Zealand and even the United States. If proven successful, expect to see similar technology implemented here in the U.S.