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UK Testing Road Signs That Can Detect Cell Phone Usage

To tackle the problem of distracted driving, the U.K. is testing out road signs that detect if motorists are using cell phones. If the signs detect someone is using a cell phone, they light up with a “no cell phone” warning. The hope is the signs will help cut down on car crashes and fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. revealed that 3,450 people died in road crashes as a direct result of distracted driving in 2016. Also in the U.S., traffic authorities say up to 481,000 motorists use their phones while driving every day.

While the initial plan is to use the signs to merely notify drivers that it is aware they are using their cell phones by lighting up, Cult of Mac reported plans to record the license plates of offending drivers are in the works. It’s possible then that next step is for the signs to issue traffic citations to anyone detected using a cell phone while driving.

Australia is reportedly already testing using cameras to ticket people detected using cell phones while driving.

How Road Signs Can Detect Cell Phone Usage

In Britain, the road signs scan passing vehicles to detect if a mobile phone is transmitting signals to a cell tower. It can also detect if Bluetooth is being used versus a “hands-on” cell phone. If the sign detects Bluetooth technology the warning message will not activate.

There is, however, a potential backlash in Britain as some people say the purported road signs are another example of “big brother” invading privacy. As technology increases, privacy advocates continuously warn against the use of technology to create an Orwellian authoritarian state. China already has a social credit system to influence personal behaviors.

The road sign technology is also new, unproven and imperfect. Westcotec is the firm behind the road signs and has made them for the Norfolk CountCouncilil, but they acknowledge the signs have shortcomings.

“The system cannot differentiate between a driver and the passengers on a bus, for example, but this goes some way towards remotely warning drivers that they can be detected using their phone,” said a spokesperson for Westcotec.

Peter Williams, RAC road safety spokesperson told the BBC: “While this new signage is no replacement for a uniformed police officer catching someone in the act, it could be enough to make some drivers think twice – and that has to be a positive step forward.

“So ironically, just as technology has enabled the problem of drivers using mobile phones illegally, it can also be a big part of the solution in getting people to stop.”


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