Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

New safety tech trial catches hundreds of drivers breaking law

“We have been shocked at what we have seen during the trial,” says Warwickshire Police inspector

A trial of road safety technology being deployed in the UK for the first time has led to hundreds of motorists being caught breaking traffic laws, with a senior roads policing officer saying he is “shocked” at the number of offences recorded.

The trial, using equipment developed by the consultancy AECOM and run jointly by National Highways and Warwickshire Police on the M40 and A46, involved a “sensor test vehicle” equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that is able to recognise, for example, a motorist using a handheld mobile phone.

During the initial 64-hour period in which the van was deployed, it detected motorists breaking the law on average once every six minutes.

Warwickshire Police says it identified 152 drivers using a mobile phone illegally and 512 people not wearing a seatbelt – the latter, according to recent DfT casualty statistics, now a factor in a higher proportion of deaths of vehicle occupants than at any time since records began.

The force says that more than 216 Notices of Intended Prosecution (NIPs) were issued as a result of the initiative.

National Highways Road Safety Team leader Jamie Hassall said: “Safety remains our top priority and we want everyone to get to their destination safely.

“Sadly, the results of this trial have shown that some drivers do not feel the need to wear a seatbelt or become distracted by their phones.

“Using any phone while driving is dangerous – driving is a highly complex task requiring a person’s full attention, as any error can be catastrophic.

“Drivers who talk on phones, both hands-free and hand-held, are four times more likely to be in a crash resulting in injuries.

“We want to see if we can change driver behaviour and therefore improve road safety for everyone. Our advice is clear; buckle up and give the road your full attention.”

Inspector Jem Mountford of Warwickshire Police commented: “Whilst we prefer to educate drivers and passengers of cars, vans, HGVs and other vehicles first, the new van is a fantastic tool to support officers in changing driver behaviour and enforcing the legislation for those reluctant to comply. 

“Over 216 drivers have received Notices of Intended Prosecution and we have been shocked at what we have seen during the trial. 

“We have seen one driver with his phone to his ear and his other hand to his face so none on the steering wheel, and two separate drivers with no seatbelts on who were also using handheld phones.

“As well as fines, points and their job, drivers risk their own safety, the safety of passengers – often young children and the safety of everyone else using the road around them,” Inspector Mountford added.

> Warwickshire man jailed after stealing police bait bike

“That is not acceptable and we will continue our proactive operations to address these dangerous behaviours.”

The trial will continue throughout the rest of this month, following which National Highways and AECOM will review the results ahead of a decision being made on whether to roll the technology out across the country’s strategic road network.

AECOM’s Technical Director – Strategic Consultancy, Transportation, Dr Jamie Uff, said: “The data drawn from this trial has really indicated how vital it is that we have new technologies capable of detecting driving offences.

“The pioneering artificial intelligence is being utilised alongside confirmatory human assessment to make sure that the process is as efficient and accurate as possible.

“The data, which is being analysed solely in the UK, is allowing us to gain a huge amount of vital insight into driving habits.

“The trial is allowing us to differentiate between actual behaviour and reported/expected behaviour – meaning different conclusions or clarifications can be drawn.”

“It’s important to remember that every single incident of dangerous driving could potentially cause death or serious injury, and that is ultimately what we’re trying to prevent with this trial,” he added.

News of the trial comes during the annual Week of Action for the road safety initiative Project EDWARD, the acronym standing for “Every Day Without A Road Death,” further details of which can be found here.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment

60 comments

Avatar
mattw | 1 year ago
0 likes

It's a pity that there is no stat for re-education courses, or account of what happened to the other 60%.

Avatar
Sriracha | 1 year ago
0 likes

Presumably this technology could be built in to every new car? And why not - I'd love to hear all the reasons; why it's too expensive (but never mind the leather seats), or isn't "appropriate", yada yada, SMIDSY.

Avatar
Fignon's ghost | 1 year ago
3 likes

The police could make serious revenue from this investment.

By catching all those mobile phone jockey's that drive whilst distracted will save the lives of vulnerable road users.

I do hope the machines are rolled out on every A road in the land. The sooner the better.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Fignon's ghost | 1 year ago
0 likes
Fignon's ghost wrote:

The police could make serious revenue from this investment. By catching all those mobile phone jockey's that drive whilst distracted will save the lives of vulnerable road users. I do hope the machines are rolled out on every A road in the land. The sooner the better.

Unfortunately, the police don't get to keep the revenue.

Avatar
David9694 replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
6 likes

I have it on good authority from drivers that they do keep it, and that they are also corrupt, blinkered and should be out catching burglars not preying on innocent motorists.

Avatar
ktache replied to David9694 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Otherwise law abiding...

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to David9694 | 1 year ago
1 like
David9694 wrote:

I have it on good authority from drivers that they do keep it, and that they are also corrupt, blinkered and should be out catching burglars not preying on innocent motorists.

Burglers are a lot harder to catch though as the police are unlikely to know where they're going to strike next and unless they get caught in the act or in possession of stolen goods, then it's a tough case to prove. With dangerous driving, it's just a matter of the police waiting and watching at a main road and they'll easily catch drivers in the act.

There's also the issue that burglars don't usually threaten lives (certainly the KSIs from drivers are much higher than from burglaries) and usually items can be replaced with the help of insurance. Obviously, victims of burglaries can feel traumatised and violated, but that also applies to victims of road crime.

Another point to consider is that by stopping dodgy vehicles/drivers, the police may well find evidence of other criminality (c.f. Yorkshire Ripper), so there's a small chance that they can prevent some burglars just by focussing on dangerous drivers.

Avatar
Rik Mayals unde... replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

You only need to watch Police Interceptors to see how many speeding drivers they catch who don't have a license, insurance, MOT etc, and have a boot full of stolen gear. Usually, those who treat the roads as a racetrack are not fully legal.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Fignon's ghost wrote:

The police could make serious revenue from this investment. By catching all those mobile phone jockey's that drive whilst distracted will save the lives of vulnerable road users. I do hope the machines are rolled out on every A road in the land. The sooner the better.

Unfortunately, the police don't get to keep the revenue.

No, but it will save them the not inconsiderable costs of attending any number of RTCs and KSIs. Far cheaper to prevent than to clear up.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
3 likes
Sriracha wrote:

No, but it will save them the not inconsiderable costs of attending any number of RTCs and KSIs. Far cheaper to prevent than to clear up.

You're right. Unfortunately, the costs of public services usually don't account for external benefits such as also reducing costs for the NHS.

Avatar
Rik Mayals unde... replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
1 like

The cost of the emergency services to attend, investigate, clean up, hospital treatment etc each serious or fatal collision has been put at around £1 million. So, every dangerous driver they catch is potentially a big saving. 

Avatar
Rik Mayals unde... replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Yes they do keep it. It goes into a pot which funds the camera vans and the wages of the staff employed on the vans. They are not supposed to make any profit from it, the money also goes into running the driver awareness courses too.

This from someone who used to be a police volunteer, who's relative works for the police.

Avatar
mark1a replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 1 year ago
1 like

AFAIK, they don't keep it anymore, the original camera schemes from 2002 onwards did, and as you say, the fines were used for funding the scheme itself, but that stopped in 2010, since then the revenue now goes straight to the Exchequer. I think it's slightly different for the awareness courses in that the "fee" for the course directly funds them. 

Avatar
Christopher TR1 | 1 year ago
2 likes

This is good news. I hope the trial is deemed a success and this gets rolled out across the country, leading to many many convictions.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Christopher TR1 | 1 year ago
1 like
Christopher TR1 wrote:

This is good news. I hope the trial is deemed a success and this gets rolled out across the country, leading to many many convictions.

My cynicism suggests that it'll be thwarted by political interference (c.f. War on Motorists).

Avatar
ktache replied to Christopher TR1 | 1 year ago
0 likes

That, and hopefully eventual compliance.

Avatar
Pub bike | 1 year ago
5 likes

We are shocked at the results therefore we will not be proceeding with trail once it has finished as the results are obviously wrong.  Cyclists are to be blame for all the false results etc.

Please just go out and do some proper police work and prosecute some motorists.

Avatar
VIPcyclist | 1 year ago
2 likes

I find 512 people not wearing a seatbelt hard to believe. The mobile phone use not so hard to believe. Never in all my cycling have I seen anyone without a seatbelt on. Plenty on the phone though. It makes me question the accuracy of the AI tech. This was a trial of the tech after all. I think they'd have to be a clear photograph of the offence to even consider a prosecution, remember the Post-Office fiasco.
Does anyone have a link to an academic article describing the trial?

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to VIPcyclist | 1 year ago
1 like

I would expect a lot of those to be false positives even with a human eyeball check. Suspect many of the captures will not be of evidentiary standard.

Avatar
SimoninSpalding replied to VIPcyclist | 1 year ago
4 likes

I would expect a lot of the no seat belt to be hgv drivers. Large fleet operators have checks in place, but smaller companies and sole operators probably don't.
My only other comment would be is if the Police are shocked by the results they really need to spend more time out on the road observing the behaviour of road users.

Avatar
Tom_77 replied to VIPcyclist | 1 year ago
2 likes
VIPcyclist wrote:

I find 512 people not wearing a seatbelt hard to believe.

Roughly 5% of drivers don't wear a seat belt. A motorway or trunk road will have 10's of thousands of vehicles per day, so if anything 500 seems quite low.

Edit: reference - https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/seatbelt-and-mobile-phone-use-s...

Avatar
brogs | 1 year ago
8 likes

"Whilst we prefer to educate drivers.."

This is total bull. There is no process in place to educate drivers. Our driver training system consists of an easy to pass theory and practical test, then nothing. Ever. There is no encouragement for drivers to improve their skills. There is no mandated form of skills development and testing. Safe driving is seen by many as compliance with a number on a sign. The whole thing is upside down. If drivers are properly trained then the other problems are mitigated. For example, it's not possible to drive at an inappropriate speed in a residential street because there is too much to take in if you are competent. Obviously it's a very good thing to be catching distracted drivers, but it's part of a much wider skills and attitudes problem which is not being addressed.

Avatar
Rik Mayals unde... replied to brogs | 1 year ago
0 likes

Yes there is. It's called driver awareness courses for those who opt to take them as opposed to fine and points. Usually run by ex traffic officers with a lot of experience dealing with some horrific fatal collisions, usually caused by speed.

Avatar
Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
15 likes

I quite often take a lunchtime walk and just for fun do a spot survey of driver behaviours. Out of every 100 I'd estimate the following.

1 blatantly using a phone (held to ear)
1 blatantly using a phone (held in front, facetime or on speaker style)
2 paying a lot of attention to something on their lap
1 reading paperwork
3 smoking
5 eating or drinking

Near the flashing speed signs around 40% are getting the red unhappy face.

At the lights, I see a driver going through a red around 1 in 10 signal cycles.

Presumably also the standard percentages of untaxed, uninsured, unlicensed, eyesight impaired, drunk or drugged.

Every time there is any kind of crackdown, principally mobile speed cameras in town there is Facebook outrage on the local groups about motorists being persecuted cash cows.

For reference, in the 20 years I have lived here, there have been 3 road collision fatalities, at least 5 serious injuries, as well as many minor injury incidents, non injury collisions and uncountable squashed pets all within the 30mph town boundary. The tally for the national speed limit partial ring road and major roads within 5 miles of town must be in the region of 50 deaths over the same period.

I'm sure in all that time, somebody on a bicycle or electric scooter must have hurt someone else through negligence and stupidity but I cannot recall or find via search engine a single reported incident. The nearest I can find is a story about a local lady injured by a skateboarder....whilst on holiday in Athens.

Avatar
David9694 replied to Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
1 like

Drivers (direct quote from local Facebook): but we are taxed insured to drive on the roads and dont drive 3 abreast and speed through our village

Avatar
Rik Mayals unde... replied to Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
0 likes

I do the same when cycling to and from work. I estimate at least 50% of vehicles, the driver is blatantly on the phone. Not so on my weekend rides, it must be a commuting thing.

Avatar
wtjs replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 1 year ago
0 likes

 I estimate at least 50% of vehicles, the driver is blatantly on the phone

It's nothing like this around Garstang, even at the traffic lights on the A6. There's the odd one who I will video when I've finished the RLJ campaign- this is Porsche DS 6972 crossing a red light yesterday

Avatar
David9694 replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 1 year ago
0 likes

Poor time poor drivers.
Doesn't everyone drive a 67 or newer - surely they all have integrated Bluetooth, if you really must?

Avatar
Tom_77 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Nothing really surprises me any more when it comes to driving standards.

Avatar
Rik Mayals unde... | 1 year ago
14 likes

But, but, but, cyclists!

I commute to and from work on my bike, 90% on shared paths through a nature trail. The 10% I ride on the road I always see people on their phones. Either looking down at their lap whilst driving or holding the phones. I even saw one driver on his phone coming up the slip road of the M6, I was crossing at the top and he didn't see me as he was so engrossed in his phone. Pretty much every week I have to take evasive action due to someone on their phone not paying attention.

I think it should be a mandatory 12 month ban, instantly, a £1000 fine and 6 points. Take away the idiots liberty, that'll hurt them.

Pages

Latest Comments