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Norfolk and Suffolk police launch crackdown on mobile phone drivers using signal detector

PUBLISHED: 13:29 24 January 2015 | UPDATED: 13:29 24 January 2015

The new sign that detects motorists using their mobile phone. Photo : Steve Adams

The new sign that detects motorists using their mobile phone. Photo : Steve Adams

Archant

Norfolk and Suffolk Police are starting a joint week-long crackdown on motorists who use phones while at the wheel.

The centrepiece is a flashing mobile-phone sign on Martineau Lane, outside County Hall in Norwich.

The “mobile phone detection system”, designed by Dereham-based safety sign specialists, Westcotec, is a portable system and exclusive to Norfolk.

A signal-detector can tell if a mobile phone is being used for a phone call or to send a text while in the car and will flash up as the offending driver goes past.

It is designed as a deterrent rather than to catch offending drivers and will be moved about several locations in Norfolk in the months to come.

Iain Temperton, road safety manager at Norfolk County Council, added; “We have been trialing the MPDS at a number of locations in Norfolk and it’s proved to be a flexible and extremely useful piece of equipment that we’re now ready to roll out across the county.

“The system can’t detect whether it’s a passenger using a phone in a vehicle or whether a hands-free device is being used. But of course, those people don’t need to be worried if they get a flash from the sign.”

Norfolk Constabulary is warning that if drivers are caught using a mobile phone while behind the wheel they will be given a £60 fixed penalty notice and have their licence endorsed with three penalty points.

It is part of road safety group Think! Norfolk’s “fatal four” activities, which are: not wearing a seat belt, drink-driving, speeding and using a handheld device at the wheel.

The message of the campaign is: “Why wouldn’t you... drive sober? Belt up? Ignore it? Slow down?”

Chief Insp Chris Spinks, head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit, said: “It is a difficult message to get across when people are so reliant on their phones.

“You can’t second guess the actions of other road users and therefore need to be alert and concentrating 100% to be in a position to deal with the unexpected.”

He added: “I welcome any innovations in technology which can be used alongside traditional methods to improve safety on our roads.”

Sally Plail, driver and rider development manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “When you have a conversation with someone you are using the same part of the brain which is used to spot hazards.”

The week-long enforcement exercise will take place across Norfolk and Suffolk starting tomorrow and involve marked and unmarked police vehicles as well as unmarked police HGVs to catch lorry drivers flouting the law.

Police in Norfolk have seen drivers of HGVs watching DVDs before when they use the HGV dummy to catch lorry drivers.

“No message is so important that you cannot wait a few minutes to park safely and check it,” Ms Plail said and added: “Mobile phones have their uses but not in vehicles.”

A total of 1,530 drivers have completed courses after being caught driving while using a mobile phone in the last 12 months.

In the five years to October 2014, 13,094 drivers in Norfolk have been issued with fixed penalty notices by police after being caught using a mobile phone while driving.

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