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Police scan over 10,000 vehicles between Gatwick and Hove looking for phone usage and no seat belts

Police used the latest technology in artificial intelligence (AI) to test motorists for mobile phone and seatbelt offences in Sussex.

More than 10,000 vehicles were screened in Sussex with a Sensor Test Vehicle which analyses if offences are being committed.

It is fitted with a specialist camera system to filter out possible offences, which are then checked and double checked by human eyes.

The vehicle was used in a joint operation by Sussex Police and National Highways, which identified more than 200 driving offences at sites on the A23 Hickstead, the A23 Gatwick Link, and at Kingsway, Hove, earlier this year.

Not wearing a seatbelt, and being distracted while driving such as by using a mobile phone, remain two of the most common factors in why people are killed or seriously injured on our roads.

This includes a 23 per cent rise last year in the number of fatalities linked to people not wearing a seatbelt, according to Department for Transport figures.

These figures also show that there were 420 collisions on British roads in 2019 in which the driver was using a mobile phone at the wheel.

The results of the operation, which have just been published, found that commercial road users were disproportionately represented, accounting for 32 per cent of mobile phone offences and 82 per cent of seatbelt offences.

Sussex Police Chief Constable Jo Shiner, who is also the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Roads Policing, said: “Too many people continue to die on our roads and many more are seriously injured every day. I welcome all initiatives to help raise the profile of dangerous activities taking place on our roads and would urge everyone to wear a seat belt and not to be distracted by their mobile phone.

“I also acknowledge and thank the vast majority of law-abiding motorists who were shown to be fully compliant with the law during this operation.

“If people you care about use their phone while driving or don’t wear a seatbelt, please encourage them to change their behaviour before they get hurt or hurt someone else.”

Jamie Hassall, National Highways Road User Compliance Lead, said: “We are getting a better picture of driver compliance on the strategic road network as we deploy this equipment on different types of roads around our network.

“We want to raise the awareness of the small percentage of drivers that put themselves and others at risk with these behaviours that we can now easily detect these offences.

“Most companies have a zero tolerance to using a handheld mobile phone and many have banned the use of hands free also due to the increased risk of having a collision and it is the same for seatbelts.

“This means drivers could be sacked, get points, and a fine or even find themselves in court in more serious cases. It is time to make a positive change by putting the phone away and belting up.”

Dr Jamie Uff, AECOM Technical Director who’s been managing the research and deployment of the Sensor Test Vehicle, 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.

“The technology AECOM is deploying makes detection straightforward and is providing valuable insight to the police and policy makers on the current level of road user behaviour.”


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