What are mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras?

Published 26 September 2023
Ever seen someone not wearing a seatbelt or using their phone when driving?  Well, take a mental picture because new camera technology could soon make it a sight rarer than a generous traffic warden! So, if you know anyone that ought to know better, strap in and send them this article to warn them to stay safe before they face the penalty.

The Acusensus is a new enforcement camera system mounted to vans or placed on the roadside. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) is able to identify poor driver behaviours and road conditions, which can detect whether drivers are holding a mobile phone and if they have their seatbelts fastened.

The technology was first introduced in New South Wales, Australia, over a six-month period in an effort to stop drivers illegally using their phones. The new cameras were then trialled in the UK, in Devon and Cornwall, from October to November 2022. The trial was a success and it was expected to lead to a nationwide roll-out. If that happens, any drivers caught on their mobile phone or anyone not wearing a seatbelt can expect to be warned or fined accordingly.

Drivers caught on camera will face serious consequences – in the same way they would if they were stopped by the police for using a phone or not wearing a seatbelt.

  • If you’re caught using your mobile phone, you’ll face a £200 fine as well as six penalty points on your licence.
  • If you’re caught not wearing your seatbelt, you’ll face a fine of between £100 to £500.
  • If you’ve passed your test in the last two years and are caught, you’ll lose your licence.

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the laws around driving and using a phone.

  • You’re only allowed to use your phone to call 999 in an emergency if it’s safe to do so, or once you’re safely parked. You’re also allowed to use a Bluetooth headset.
  • You’re not allowed to use your phone when queueing in traffic. Holding your device in any way (even if you’re supervising a learner driver) is illegal.
  • There used to be a loophole in the law which meant you could hold your phone to type directions into Google Maps, for example, or any other use that wasn’t contacting somebody. This is no longer the case – it’s now illegal and you’ll be fined accordingly.

So remember, when driving or riding a motorcycle, if you hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any device that can send and receive data (whether it’s on aeroplane mode or not!), you can be prosecuted.

To protect yourself, first and foremost, make sure you’re wearing a seatbelt and not using your phone. A fifth of people killed while driving in Britain in 2022 were not wearing seat belts, as documented by the Department for Transport.  

Secondly, when you’re in a car with someone else driving, make sure their focus is completely on the road. If they need directions, help them out yourself. If you notice any other passengers aren’t wearing their seatbelt correctly, tell them.

One final note, remember the true cost of prosecution will always be more than the initial fine – it will also push up the cost of your insurance premium, so it’s just really not worth it. That text message can wait, and those five extra seconds putting your seatbelt on before driving away are so worth it.

In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about speed cameras, speeding fines and awareness courses.

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