New mobile technology capable of automatically detecting motorists who fail to wear a seatbelt or hold mobile phones at the wheel is being trialled in Warwickshire for the first time under plans to boost road safety.
A new van with detection equipment has hit motorways and major A-roads as part of a research project carried out alongside Warwickshire Police.
As part of this work, drivers will be sent warning letters in partnership with the police force, informing them of the dangers of their actions.
The ‘sensor test vehicle’ is equipped with multiple cameras which can record footage of passing motorists.
Images captured by the cameras 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 latest trials in Warwickshire.
The vehicle, which will be stationary at the side of the road while in use, is being trialled over a period of almost three months.
The warning letters, issued by police, will remind drivers that they could be fined up to £500 for not wearing a seat belt in addition to penalty points.
Drivers will also be asked to complete a short survey which will be used to inform National Highways’ research.
Using the technology in a van will allow National Highways to test it across different types of road to better understand driver behaviour across the network.
The van is initially being employed for a around three months. Findings will inform the next steps and any future deployment.
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.”
Inspector Jem Mountford of Warwickshire Police said: “We are really excited to see the impact that 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.”