Mobile phone detectors to be used by police

Police crack down on drivers using phones after crash which killed family

A mother whose eleven year old daughter was killed by a driver using his phone at the wheel has welcomed a new detector system brought in by police.

Kate Goldsmith, whose daughter Aimee was one of four members of the same family killed when a lorry driver crashed into a car she was travelling in, said the device was “a step in the right direction”.

The detector will flash a mobile phone symbol as a warning at drivers using their phones in the car - like interactive speed limit signs flash your speed at you if you're exceeding the limit.

Aimee, her stepbrothers Ethan Houghton, 13, Joshua, 11, and their mother Tracy, 45, all died in August 2016when Tomasz Kroker ploughed into stationary traffic at 50mph on the A34 near Newbury – the same road where the devices are first to be used.

“Most mothers look forward to planning their daughter's weddings. I had to plan Aimee's funeral," Goldsmith said, adding, "I have stopped a few people and said, 'you're using a mobile phone – it's a driver like you that killed my daughter'.”

Hampshire and Thames Valley Police are using the devices, which have been developed by tech firm Westcotec and have already been piloted in Norfolk. They work by monitoring 2G, 3G and 4G signals, so drivers using Bluetooth hands-free kits won't see the signs flash.

This means the technology is a bit of a blunt instrument. It won't lead to drivers being charged, as it can’t record footage or identify if it’s the driver or a passenger using a phone. And unlike speeding, when drivers sometimes go over the limit without realising, you definitely know you're on your phone, and most people know it's against the law.

Police say this isn't the point – that the aim is to educate people. It could prove a valuable reminder for people who don't think twice about quickly reading a text message, use their phone in a traffic jam – which is still illegal – or use it as a sat nav without properly fixing it to the windscreen or dashboard, which is also illegal.

Goldsmith said the system was not a perfect solution but added: “I welcome any technology which can assist in educating people.”

The first two devices, costing £6,000 each, will be installed in two places on the A34 in Oxfordshire. They will then be used elsewhere in the Thames Valley and Hampshire regions. Tougher penalties for using a mobile phone behind the wheel were introduced in March 2017. The number of points drivers receive on their licence was doubled to six, plus a £200 fine. If you've been driving for less than two years, six points is enough to get you banned.

Matt Barber, deputy police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, said the police needed to "make it as socially unacceptable to use your mobile while driving as it is to drink and drive". Research suggests a driver is four times more likely to crash if they are using a phone and twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash when texting compared with drink-driving.

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