“I fear if you were to drive along any road – be it a rural road or a motorway – this afternoon or this evening, and you looked carefully around you, you would probably notice a lot of people who are distracted who are not doing the right thing, and frankly, are a hazard both to themselves and everybody around them.”

So says enforcement and road safety expert Geoff Collins, who is this week’s guest on Highways Voices podcast discussing distracted driving, driver behaviour and the role of technology in improving the road safety situation.

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Mr Collins has taken on the role of UK Manager for Australian company Acusensus, which uses artificial intelligence and camera footage to spot people using hand-held phones. The technology is being used in a series of National Highways and Police trials across the UK. People using their phones or not wearing a seatbelt are spotted automatically as they drive past specially-equipped camera vans which have technology to see through the windscreen and into the vehicle.

The magnitude of the problem was highlighted in recent trials in Sussex where 200 offences were spotted in checks of 10,000 vehicles at three locations. Furthermore professional drivers accounted for 32% of illegal mobile phone use and 82% of seatbelt offences.

Geoff Collins told Highways Voices he is confident that this technology will be welcomed by the majority of motorists who are fed up with distracted drivers: “I get plenty of anecdotal examples when people tell me that it really annoys them,” he explains. “You can see the head going down, then the car is veering left and right a little bit, and then they look up again and they go straight. It’s because they’re looking at their phone, and they’re checking a text message.  The level of acceptance of that type of behaviour is I think, really low, which is good because we want the roads to be safer for everybody.”

The podcast not only features details of how the technology works, and what it can be used for, but also how it can impact driver behaviour without becoming draconian. “You can actually use that as an opportunity for an educational intervention,” Mr Collins says. “So it might be that someone needs to be told the error of their ways, and the way of doing that is through an education intervention, which means they should be less likely to do it again in future, and I think that’s a very good approach. So, you catch someone who say you shouldn’t be doing that [and] here’s why you shouldn’t be doing that. There will be a fine, you do need to attend a training course, but at the moment, we won’t put points on your license. But if we catch you again, we absolutely will.”

Also in today’s programme you can hear the latest news from LCRIG, ADEPT, the Transport Technology Forum and ITS (UK) plus why Strada Imaging wins “Adrian’s Accolade”

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