Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 21st January 2019

Many road accidents are caused by people using their phones while driving. In Norfolk, new technology is being trialled to prevent drivers from texting when behind the wheel. Norfolk-based Westcotec have developed a system that allows phone usage to be detected in cars.

Similar to a speed indicator sign, the system is split into two parts that are linked together. The first is an antenna, which detects mobile signal standards, such as 4G. The second part is an LED display installed further down a road. When the antenna detects a signal, the sign lights up with an image that reminds motorists that they should be concentrating on the road.

The original version was built in 2014, with an updated variation being tested on public roads. The current version was first shown in October 2017 at the European Traffic Police Network conference. The original idea became outdated, partly due to the phone image on the sign. A member of Westcotec’s marketing team, Chris Spinks said “the pictogram that was used on the sign was one with push buttons and an aerial. When we did a bit of research around what the new pictogram would look like, most people under 25 thought it was a calculator or a walkie talkie.”

The new version was updated to take into account phone data transfer. The technology measures the strength and duration of a signal and ensures the sign isn’t constantly being turned on and off. The system can also detect Bluetooth connections.

Trials started on July 10th and will last for 16 weeks across four locations. The results will be analysed by Westcotec and the Norfolk Road Safety Partnership. Similar technology is being trialled in other places like New Zealand. The Auckland Motorway Alliance is testing phone detectors, while there has been interest from Slovenia and Argentina as well.

It’s hoped Westcotec’s system will encourage people to stop using their phones while driving. Providing the results are positive, we could see more of the signs show up in other parts of the UK.

Image credit: Wired