Trial starts of technology which aims to catch drivers on the phone
Council leaders and police have unveiled a new weapon in the fight to stop drivers using mobile phones when they're behind the wheel.
Officials have worked with Dereham company Westcotec to develop the system which will flash a warning signal to drivers, similar to those for speeding, if a phone is being used in the car.
The system, which is thought to be the first of its kind in the country, is being trialled at four sites in Norfolk from today.
It will be used at locations across the county for the next year, with the equipment in place for up to a month at a time at each site.
Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council's communities committee, said: "Using a mobile phone whilst driving is an enormous distraction and apart from being illegal puts the lives of the driver, passengers and pedestrians at risk.
"We are delighted to have been able to partner with Westcotec to trial this new technology across Norfolk."
The authority says the equipment can detect the kind of signal a phone is picking up and whether it is being used through a Bluetooth system or through the handset.
Officials admit that it cannot detect whether a driver or their passenger is using a phone and the warning sign may therefore flash even if no offence is being committed.
But they hope the measure will still act as a deterrent to motorists.
Diane Steiner, the authority's deputy director of public health, said: “Our priority is to make Norfolk a healthy and safe place to live and the new technology enables us to provide a reminder to drivers who may be using their handset whilst driving.
"Whilst this is still not a perfect science, the new generation of sign is significantly more accurate and reliable than the first.”
Inspector Jonathan Chapman, of the Norfolk roads policing unit, added: "This scheme is a good example of how we can work with local authorities to make using a mobile phone whilst driving as socially unacceptable as drink or drug-driving.
"Any scheme which prevents this kind of behaviour is welcomed. Using a mobile phone at the wheel is one of the fatal four road offences which can have devastating consequences if it causes a fatal or serious collision.
"We will be using the information provided by Norfolk County Council’s road safety team to help us target drivers in the future but the message is simple – leave your phone alone whilst you’re behind the wheel."
The system will initially be used at sites in Attleborough, Holt, Norwich and Toftwood.