State-of-the-art AI technology has detected almost 300 drivers using mobile phones or not wearing seatbelts on one of Devon and Cornwall’s busiest roads – in just three days.
It is the first time this system has been used in the UK, with the camera currently located on the A30 near Launceston and already detecting offences.
In the first 72 hours of deployment, the system detected:
• 117 mobile phone offences
• 180 seat belt offences
Last year, Vision Zero South West conducted a 15-day trial of a larger, vehicle-based system from Acusensus which detected 590 seatbelt and 45 mobile phone offences across various roads in both Devon and Cornwall.
The new free-standing system can be easily moved and can be deployed at various locations across Devon and Cornwall, providing 24/7 monitoring.
Although the cameras use AI to detect potential offences, all images are subsequently reviewed by a human. If an offence has been correctly identified, the driver will either be sent a warning letter or a notice of intended prosecution, depending on the severity.
Adrian Leisk, Head of Road Safety for Devon & Cornwall Police, hopes the technology will help send a clear message to the small minority of motorists who continue to flout the law.
“When we trialled this technology last year, we were disappointed by the number of drivers detected not wearing seatbelts - particularly as we continue to see serious and fatal collisions involving people who were not wearing seatbelts, a third of all fatal collisions in 2021 involved someone who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
“The early results from our latest deployment show that there is also a problem with mobile phone use behind the wheel, which is both dangerous and illegal.
“While we know the majority of drivers in Devon and Cornwall are safe, respectful and conscientious motorists, sadly there is a minority who are still putting people’s lives at risk.
“We are employing this new technology to send a clear message to anyone who continues to use their phone behind the wheel – you will get caught.
“Whether it’s by the Acusensus cameras, a passing officer or on video footage submitted through Op Snap, the result will be the same and you will end up with a hefty fine and six penalty points – which could be enough to cost some drivers their license and livelihood.
“It’s just not worth it. Before you start your journey, put your phone away in the glovebox or somewhere you cannot reach it so the temptation is not there. If it’s an emergency, make sure you pull in and stop the car before making that call.”
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is also chairman of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership.
Commissioner Hernandez said: “Last year 48 people were killed and 738 were seriously injured on Devon and Cornwall’s roads – and that is why road safety is one of four priorities in my Police and Crime Plan.
“We know distracted driving is a common cause of collisions, which is exactly why it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
“We also know that wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death for drivers in a road collision by around 50% - yet almost a third of the people who died in UK car collisions in 2021 were not wearing a seat belt, the highest level recorded since recent records began.
“By embracing new technology such as the Acusensus ‘Heads Up’ system, we have the opportunity to improve compliance with these laws and consequently make our roads safer for everyone.”
Dr Jamie Uff, Technical Director with AECOM who helped to deliver the Acusensus system, said: “Despite the often-reported dangers of distracted driving and failing to wear seat belts, the numbers of people killed or seriously injured as a result of these behaviours remain high.
“The technology AECOM is deploying makes detection straightforward and is providing valuable insight to the police and policy makers on the current level of road user behaviour.”
Geoff Collins, General Manager for Acusensus UK said: “This ‘Heads Up’ installation is a significant step towards improving UK driver behaviours, breaking those bad habits that lead to poor decisions and ultimately increased casualties on our roads”.