Scale of motorists who STILL use mobile phones on motorway laid bare

Scale of selfish motorists who STILL use mobile phones on the motorway is laid bare as just one new high-tech camera catches 15,000 culprits in six months

  • Figures suggest one in every 200 drivers uses phone while driving on motorway 
  • New high-tech cameras take high-definition photos through car windscreens
  • Cameras are being trialled on an undisclosed motorway ahead of blanket ban
  • Pilot scheme running since spring with wider rollout hoped for next year

The menace of drivers using mobile phones has been laid bare by high-tech cameras that can instantly capture motorists calling, texting or scrolling at the wheel.

Figures from the cameras suggest that one in every 200 drivers uses their mobile phone while driving on motorways.

One camera alone identified 15,000 cases over a six-month period where a driver could be seen with their phone in their hands.

Until now police have only able to catch offenders by driving up alongside them.

But the new automated system uses artificial intelligence (AI) software to analyse instantly high-definition photos taken through the windscreen of every passing car.

The smart cameras are being trialled on an undisclosed motorway ahead of a blanket ban on holding a mobile device while driving from early next year.

It is a fresh victory for the Daily Mail’s End The Mobile Madness campaign, which has led calls for tougher penalties.

Jenoptik, the enforcement technology firm testing the cameras in the UK, believes they will be crucial in providing evidence to prosecute offenders.

The pilot scheme has been running since spring and it is hoped a wider rollout across the country will be possible next year.

The 15,000 figure is likely to be far higher as the trial was not always capturing data and did not monitor all lanes.

A driver is caught on camera using their mobile phone while driving on the motorway

The new cameras that take pictures through car windscreens of drivers using their phones at the wheel

New high-tech cameras can instantly capture motorists calling, texting or scrolling at the wheel, as is pictured above

Lorry driver killed two after causing motorway pile-up when checking Facebook while driving

A lorry driver was checking Facebook on his mobile when he hit a special needs school minibus, killing a pupil and a support worker.

Joe Cairns, 14, and Anne Kerr, 50, died and five others were injured when 34-year-old James Majury’s dangerous driving caused a multi-vehicle pile-up on the M58 in Lancashire in January 2019.

Preston Crown Court heard he had been texting, viewing sports news, using social media and playing a mobile game during his journey. He was jailed for almost nine years.

‘However, it does still relate to a significant number every day, which is quite scary,’ said Geoff Collins, of Jenoptik. 

‘Current findings suggest one in 200 vehicles show mobile phone misuse. This is a worryingly high figure.’

Those identified have not been penalised as the trial is a ‘proof of concept’ and will need legislative change for it to be enforced.

The cameras – which can be fixed to overhead gantries or fitted in portable trailers – use very high shutter speeds to take pictures through the windscreens of each passing vehicle.

High-definition images are produced in any weather and at speeds of up to 185mph without any motion blur. 

Sophisticated software sifts through each image in real time and flags anyone deemed to be breaking the law to a team of human moderators to review.

If use of the cameras is approved by law, the images would be sent to police and notices of intended prosecution posted to the vehicle’s owner in the same way as speeding penalties.

The technology is already used in New South Wales, Australia, where it is estimated to have reduced road fatalities by a fifth since it was introduced two years ago.

The offending rate had fallen from one in 82 drivers during the pilot period in 2019 to one in 478 by the end of October this year.

Joe Cairns, 14, who along with school support worker Anne Kerr died in a crash caused by an HGV driver on their mobile phone in 2019

Ms Kerr, a teaching assistant, was killed in the crash on the  M58 close to junction 3 at Bickerstaffe in January 2019

The aftermath of the crash which killed two and caused serious injuries to a further three teenage passengers

Lorry driver James Majury pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and a further five counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and was jailed for eight years and ten months. He was using Facebook on his mobile phone when he caused the fatal crash

The smart cameras are being trialled on an undisclosed motorway ahead of a blanket ban on holding a mobile device while driving from early next year

In November the UK Government announced that motorists would be banned from picking up their mobiles for any reason while driving from next year.

Offenders will face a fine of up to £200 and six points on their licence. It is designed to close a loophole in the current law that means drivers can be prosecuted only if they are caught using hand-held phones to call or text.

Mr Collins said there had been a ‘high level of interest’ in the cameras – designed by the Australian firm Acusensus – from highway authorities and police forces.

One in four drivers admitted using a phone in their hand while driving at least once in the past 12 months, according to a survey by the Department for Transport.

If a driver looks at their phone for two seconds while travelling at 30mph, they will travel 100ft blind.

‘Using a handheld mobile phone significantly increases the risk that a driver will be involved in a collision,’ Mr Collins said.

‘But until now it has been difficult to monitor and stop this behaviour. These trials have proved that AI can flag up drivers who continue to flout the rules.’

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