Using a mobile device while driving is one of the most dangerous things that a motorist can do when behind the wheel, but it is thought that new AI technology could help police forces to crack down on this activity without the individual knowing.

The idea is that roadside camera detectors could be used to take photos of people using their phones or other devices while driving, as they will be intelligent enough to be able to both detect the exact vehicle which is being driven via ANPR and then identify the offence in action as the offender drives past.

Image recognition AI software

At present, it is not known exactly how this new AI technology will work, but it is understood that image recognition software will be part of it and police forces around the world are looking into how they could be using this technology to help them to detect and deter criminal activity.

Basic versions of AI are already being put to use in automatic number plate recognition technology, and advances in the development of long-range cameras and other high definition imagery can help police to get clear photos of those who are breaking the law while on the roads.

The police force in New South Wales, Australia, is backing a Government decision to find technology-based solutions which will help to address the problem of people using their phones while driving, and they are currently looking into solutions such as long-range cameras, and helmet cameras being worn by police on motorbikes.

They hope that machine learning systems could be taught to recognise mobile phones and other devices being used, and could then capture images of drivers using them while behind the wheel. This would then be linked to an automated number plate recognition system so they could track down the guilty motorist.

Camera trial reveals the extent of mobile use

A high definition camera placed on Sydney Harbour Bridge to capture images of motorists using mobile phones while driving ended up spotting someone committing the offence every 30 seconds, showing just how often this particular law is being broken.

The camera was in action on the 12th of December 2017 between the hours of 8 am and 2 pm, and during this time it snapped 743 motorists using their phone, which equates to 4% of all drivers.

This issue is at the forefront of the New South Wales police force’s agenda as 29 people died on their roads during the festive period last year which was almost twice as many as the year before. Using a mobile phone is becoming one of the most common reasons for people to be involved in a crash as it is a leading cause of driver distraction.

To really enforce how dangerous this activity is, Bernard Carlon who is the Executive Director at the Centre for Road Safety said that those who have a mobile phone offence are twice as likely to be killed or injured in a car crash. This doesn’t always match up with other data as many collisions involving mobile phones are unreported due to a lack of evidence.

Laws around using a mobile phone while driving

In the UK is it against the law to use your mobile phone, or another handheld device, while behind the wheel unless you are pulled over safely with the engine off, or are in an emergency situation when you need to call 999 and pulling over is not an option.

This means that it is illegal to use your mobile phone when stuck in traffic or waiting at traffic lights, and this can sometimes apply to hands-free devices too. In addition to this, devices such as sat navs and mobile phones which are attached to the windscreen should not obscure the area swept by your windscreen wipers. Turning the volume down on your mobile phone if its linked to the car audio system, or adjusting Google Maps on your phone while driving is also regarded as illegal.

Breaking these laws could land you with a £200 fine and 6 points on your driving license, so we suggest always keeping your phone out of reach if you find it difficult to avoid the temptation to check it when you are driving.

At the moment, using a handsfree kit connected to your mobile phone is legal, but if you then use your mobile phone in the process of using your handsfree kit, (such as turning off a call), this is illegal. It is this type of grey area which makes mobile phone use while driving one of the most contentious issues of the moment because many people don’t actually know what is and isn’t allowed.

Do you fully understand what is and isn’t allowed with mobile phone use while driving? Do you think that the introduction of AI technology will deter people from using their phones while driving? Let us know in the comments below.

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