Police forces in Thames Valley and Hampshire have been looking for a solution to motorists using their mobile devices while behind the wheel, and the seemed to have found it in the form of mobile detection technology. This is new tool made available to police in Thames Valley and Hampshire to show when mobile devices are in use by active motorists. When identified, a sign will flash at motorists, telling them to put away their mobiles. The main issue with the technology is that it can’t distinguish between drivers and their passengers, but according to the mother of 11 year-old Aimee Goldsmith, who was fatally struck by a distracted driver, it’s still a suitable deterrent.
Aimee was one of four who were the victims of that crash, along with her stepbrothers Joshua, 11, Ethan, 13, and their mother Tracy, 45, the result of Tomasz Kroker driving while using his mobile phone. Katie Goldsmith, Aimee’s mother, sees her daughter’s death an entirely avoidable. While other mothers spend years planning out major life events with their children, Ms. Goldsmith had to make funeral arrangements. Since the crash, Ms. Goldsmith says that she makes it a point to confront drivers who openly use their mobile devices while on the road. “You’re using a mobile phone–it’s actually a driver like you that killed my daughter,” Ms. Goldsmith has told them. While she does not see the new mobile detectors to be a complete solution to stop distracted driving, she agrees that the measure gets police thinking in the right direction. Kroker was handed a 10-year-long sentence based on four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and footage. The presiding judge said Kroker’s attention was so compromised that he “might as well have had his eyes closed” while driving.
Who is behind this technology? Westcotec Ltd. worked with the Thames Valley and Hampshire Constabulary to further develop technology they used in an initial test run in Norfolk at some point last year. Currently, the mobile detector is capable of detecting devices on 2G, 3G, and 4G connectivity, alerting people on phone calls, in the middle of texting, or browsing the internet. This, however, does not include bluetooth headsets, as the mobile detector can tell this apart from smartphones or tablet devices. What it can’ distinguish are drivers ad passengers, so the vehicle will be flagged regardless of who’s actually operating it.
At £6000 a piece, the units will find a home on the A34 in Oxfordshire and in several undisclosed locations in Thames Valley and Norfolk. When drivers are caught using their mobile phones now can be fined £200 and suffer six points tot heir licence. According to Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Matt Barber, this technology is “not fool-proof.” Despite that, Barber says that it’s the business of police to confront drivers in an effort to “make it as socially unacceptable to use your mobile whilst driving as it is to drink and drive.” Roads Safety Officer PC Liz Johnson pointed to research that drivers who are distracted by their mobile devices increase the likelihood of causing a crash at least four times, and twice as likely for that crash to be fatal compared to driving under the influence of alcohol. For Johnson, it’s “vital that people take notice and stop using their mobile phones whilst driving.”