A Police Report released last night under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that traffic cameras which can sense when a live mobile telephone call is taking place are already undergoing trials in the UK on three major motorways.
Data such as whether a mobile call is incoming or outgoing, as well as caller IDs and call duration can be picked up by the hi-tech cameras, which are revealed to be running live trials across seventeen sites on the UK motorway network. The cameras are activated by mobile phone signals and take ‘no-flash’ images day or night, using military-standard infrared technology.
Interviewed on the subject, West Murcía Chief Constable David Flaw was quoted as saying: “These are strictly test trials, and I must stress that, as at today’s date, no data has being gathered outside of use for operational and control monitoring. No prosecutions have been made or are pending. ANPR recognition is not active on these cameras, and we are simply evaluating this advanced technology in a bid to increase road safety. It is a known fact that driver distraction is a major safety issue for all road users, and Police forces all over the UK have very limited resources to prosecute drivers who may be using their mobile phones in an unsafe manner.”
The Association of British Drivers, which campaigns for motorists’ rights in the UK, said through its spokesman “This is further evidence of a ‘big-brother’ approach to policing which infringes the rights of UK drivers, and uses new technology to punish rather than to educate the hard-pressed British motorist. The data gathered from mobile phone cellular signals is subject to control under the Telecommunications Act 2003 and we believe that this usage falls well outside current legal guidelines. As a result, we are taking the matter up with the Department of Transport at the earliest opportunity.”
A spokeswoman for Brake, the road safety charity, said that “Driver distraction contributes to many devastating accidents, and it is known from repeated studies that mobile phone use, especially prevalent in young drivers, is a significant contributing factor in such situations. We welcome any steps that can act to mitigate the harm that inconsiderate drivers can cause to other road users, and we therefore support these camera trials.”
Highways Agency officials, who are responsible for maintaining and operating the network of safety cameras on motorways in England and Wales, were unavailable for comment.
- Original article appeared in The Guardian 1st April 2014.