New research van rolled out on motorway network to detect dangerous driving

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 the UK for the first time under plans to boost road safety.

By Abigail Kellett
Friday, 29th July 2022, 2:26 pm

A new van packed with detection equipment has hit England’s motorways and major A-roads as part of a research project carried out alongside Warwickshire Police to understand the scale of the problem around these dangerous motoring offences. 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.

A new research van is being launched by National Highways to boost road safety

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.”

Dr Jamie Uff, Technical Director - Strategic Consultancy, Transportation, AECOM, said: “Despite the often-reported dangers of distracted driving and failing to wear seat belts, the numbers of people killed or seriously injured as a result of these behaviours remain high.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “For several years the RAC has been urging the Government to explore how camera-based technology could reduce the scourge of drivers who put others at risk by using handheld phones while driving. What’s more, 79% of drivers we surveyed support the introduction of this kind of technology, with a clear majority (52%) strongly in favour of this happening. We’re extremely pleased to see National Highways and Warwickshire Police working together on this, and very much hope other police forces follow suit in a bid to make our roads safer.”