A HIGH-TECH police van which can automatically detect dangerous driving habits is being trialled in Warwickshire.
The new van, which uses artificial intelligence to spot motorists not wearing a seatbelt or holding a mobile phone at the wheel, is being trialled in the UK for the first time by National Highways in partnership with Warwickshire Police.
The ‘sensor test vehicle’ is equipped with multiple cameras which can record footage of passing motorists. The images are processed using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine if motorists were using a handheld mobile phone and drivers and passengers were without a seat belt.
The van is also capable of being kitted with additional technology to detect tailgating offences, although this system does not form part of the trials in Warwickshire.
The vehicle, which will be stationary at the side of the road while in use, is being trialled for around three months.
It has been deployed on the county’s motorways and major A-roads as part of a research project to understand the scale of the problem around the offences.
Offending drivers will be sent warning letters by police, reminding them they could be fined up to £500 for not wearing a seat belt. Drivers will also be asked to complete a short survey which will be used to inform National Highways’ research.
Government figures show that there were 420 collisions on British roads in 2019 in which the driver was using a mobile phone at the wheel. Separate figures show that failure to wear a seatbelt has been attributed to one in four road deaths.
Inspector Jem Mountford of Warwickshire Police said: “We are really excited to see the impact this new technology has on the behaviour of drivers in Warwickshire.
“Our officers deal with the tragic circumstances of collisions where often innocent people have been killed or seriously injured because a driver was distracted by a mobile phone or someone was not wearing a seatbelt. These collisions are preventable, but we need all road users to do the right thing and comply with the law to make our roads safer.
“During the trial the most serious breaches may be prosecuted, with others receiving warning letters, giving us the opportunity to explain how they have been caught and asking them to change their behaviour. Next time they may not be so lucky.”
National Highways Head of Road Safety Jeremy Phillips said: “Safety remains our top priority and we want everyone to get to their destination safely. Sadly, there are still drivers who do not feel the need to wear a seatbelt, become distracted by their phones or travel too close to the vehicle in front.
“We want to see if we can change driver behaviour and therefore improve road safety for everyone. Our advice is clear – please leave enough space, buckle up and give the road your full attention.”
Around 25 per cent of road deaths were linked to not wearing a seatbelt in 2018. In the same year, 117 people were killed or seriously injured in a collision where the driver was found to have been distracted.
A fixed camera equipped with similar AI was installed on the M4 in Berkshire last year and detected nearly 7,000 people failing to belt up and over 25,000 drivers holding their mobile phone in just six months.