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'Speed camera style' mobile phone detectors could spot drivers talking at the wheel - and send them a fine

Norfolk council developing 'speed trap' style machines - but could they become commonplace?...

One English council is investing in technology to detect drivers using phones at the wheel in an attempt to crack down on distracted driving.

Norfolk County Council and the firm Westotec are collaborating on a device that is able to tell if a mobile phone is being used in a moving car.

If one is detected, a photo will be taken, similar to a speed camera’s - which will then be used to see if the driver was the person on board using the phone.

The system took three months to create, and one has been used in various positions across the county since April.

The action came about due to concerns by residents about high levels of phone use by drivers.

Fines are not yet being issued, however, as Home Office approval would be needed for collection, but should the scheme go into wider use offenders could expect a £100 fine and three penalty points.

Iain Temperton, a casualty reduction officer at Norfolk County Council, told The Telegraph: “It’s a testbed, and if a new version of the technology comes along or it can be linked to a camera or automatic number plate recognition system it’s something we would look towards.”

Westcotec technical engineer Olly Samways told ITV: "I think it will take five to ten years because technology is advancing so quickly at the moment.

"We've just got to keep our heads down and keep working at it. I think there's definitely a solution in the long run."

Each detector costs £4,500 - and the council has funded the innovations through fees paid by motorists who have attended speed awareness courses after being caught over the limit.

Last year we reported how the government was considering doubling the number of penalty points motorists receive when they are caught using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel, following a recommendation from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Under the proposal put forward by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, drivers committing the offence would receive six penalty points, meaning that anyone caught on two occasions in a three-year period would lose their licence.

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said he was taking the suggestion seriously since the "amounts of casualties there have been are absolutely appalling".

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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