Police ‘shocked’ after artificially-intelligent police van detects unsafe driver every six minutes during Warwickshire trial

POLICE are “shocked” after a pioneering artificially intelligent police van spotted an unsafe driver every six minutes while on trial in Warwickshire.

The “sensor test vehicle,” which has been on trials in the county since August, has successfully detected motorists holding cellphones or driving without seatbelts.

The vehicle uses artificial intelligence (AI) detection devices that can help determine if drivers are distracted at the wheel or if they — or a passenger — are unbuckled.

During the trial, 152 drivers on the M40 and A46 were spotted using mobile phones and 512 vehicle occupants without seatbelts – all over a 64-hour period. As a result, over 216 Notices of Intended Prosecution (NIPs) were issued by Warwickshire Police.

Insp Jem Mountford, of Warwickshire Police, said: “We were shocked by what we saw during the trial.

“We saw one driver with his phone to his ear and his other hand in front of his face – so not on the wheel – and two separate drivers without seat belts who were also using handheld phones.

“The new van is a fantastic tool to help officials change driver behavior and enforce the law for those who are reluctant to comply.

“In addition to fines, points and their job, drivers are risking their own safety, the safety of passengers – often young children, and the safety of everyone else using the road around them. This is unacceptable and we will continue our proactive actions to address these dangerous behaviors.”

National Highways launched the van in partnership with consulting firm AECOM. It is being used on motorways and major trunk roads as part of a research project in collaboration with Warwickshire Police to understand the extent of unsafe driving.

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Jamie Hassall, head of the National Highways Road Safety Team, said: “Unfortunately, the results of this trial showed that some drivers don’t feel the need to wear a seat belt or be distracted by their phones.

“It is dangerous to use a phone while driving. Drivers who use both hands-free and hand-held calls are four times more likely to be involved in an accident resulting in injury.

“We want to see if we can change driving behavior and thus improve road safety for everyone. Our advice is clear; buckle up and just focus on the road.”

The Warwickshire trial of the vehicle will continue throughout October. National Highways and AECOM will analyze the results before making a decision on the potential future use of the vehicle on the road network.

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