The UK is testing signs that detect when phones are used in cars

Four signs are being trialled in Norfolk. They flash when a phone signal is detected around a car – but can’t tell who is using the phone. 

Weary of drivers still using their phones behind the wheel, one area of the UK is using tech in an attempt to stop people from picking-up their handsets. The technology, developed by Norfolk-based Westcotec, can detect phone usage in cars, similar to a speed indicator sign and it’s hoped new signs will persuade motorists to change their behaviour.

Westcotec’s system is made of two separate but linked parts. The first is an antenna which picks up various mobile signal standards – from 4G down to GPRS (2G). The second is the LED display, which is installed further down the road. When it detects a radio signal from the antenna assembly, the sign lights up with an image reminding drivers that they should be concentrating on the road, not their emails. 

The original version was made in 2014 and a version is now being tested on public roads in the UK. The idea is to make drivers aware they shouldn’t be using their phones. The original prototype of the phone quickly became outdated – partially due to the phone image on the sign. “The pictogram that was used on the sign was one with push buttons and an aerial” says Chris Spinks, a member of Westcotec’s sales and marketing team. Spinks was previously road policing chief inspector for the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit. “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.”

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