Councils propose new phone-detecting spy cams

Local councils are considering the introduction of new spy cameras that can detect a mobile phone in a car, even if it’s not being used by the driver.

Norfolk Country Council has joined forces with both police and road safety group Think! to devise a new system to tackle drivers who break the law by using their phones behind the wheel.

The solution has been a special detector, which senses the signals sent from mobile phones that are in use and flashes a warning sign at motorists to deter them from using devices while driving.

Although the sign is simply an accident prevention system, councils are considering adapting the technology into a new breed of camera-style fine collector, picking up on any and all phone use.

Motorists caught using phones behind the wheel currently face on-the-spot fines of £100 and three penalty points, with calls from motoring bodies to crack down further on phone use while driving.

Automatic plate recognition to catch perpetrators

Ian Temperton, from Norfolk County Council, said: “It’s a testbed, and if a new version of the technology comes along or it can be linked to a camera or automatic number plate recognition system it’s something we would look towards.”

Likewise, Olly Samways, technical sales engineer for the company which manufactures and sells the existing system, said that he expects that a law enforcement system mightn’t be far off.

He said: “At the moment we are not trying to develop a system for law enforcement but I assume it will happen in five to ten years.”

However, the detection system is unable to distinguish between drivers and passengers using phones, and also can’t tell the difference between legal hands-free phone systems.

As a result, the system would capture any and all phone users within a car, leaving motorists potentially facing a length appeals process for unfair fines or convictions.

Still requires approval

The system would require approval from the Home Office, though Mr Temperton is aware that it could also raise suspicion that it will be used to boost government revenue like some speed cameras.

He said: “We have had a complete mixture of feedback, from people who think it’s marvellous to people saying it’s a complete waste of time. People don’t like to be reprimanded over mobile phone use, it touches a nerve.”

The council also noted that it has other limitations, as nearby people using their mobile phones will also set the system off, meaning that it can only be introduced in areas with few pedestrians.

Last year, figures showed that the number of motorists prosecuted for using mobile phones behind the wheel has dipped by 30 per cent in the past two years.

Despite this, phone use is still outlined as one of the major causes of fatal road accidents, alongside speed, drink driving and seatbelt offences.