Government considering technology to prevent mobiles being used in cars
Drivers could see their mobile phone signal automatically blocked while at the wheel, under new technology being considered by the DfT.
Reported by the Times on Saturday (17 Dec), the software would block a mobile signal in a moving vehicle, preventing users from making calls and sending and retrieving texts and emails.
The Times says the DfT is planning to sit down with network providers and handset manufacturers in the new year to discuss the technology further.
The move is part of ongoing Government efforts to crack down on illegal mobile phone use by drivers; in October, it announced that penalties are to double to six points and a £200 fine.
The increase in penalty points - which means an immediate ban for newly-qualified drivers who have a ceiling of six points for the first two years after passing the test - has been welcomed by stakeholders including Road Safety GB, the RAC and IAM RoadSmart.
A poll on the Metro website, which attracted more than 3,000 responses, suggests that 44% would back the move to introduce the new signal blocking technology.
The Times also points to statistics which show that almost one in three drivers admitted to having used their phone at the wheel in the past year.
A DfT spokesperson said: “We are determined to crack down on mobile phone use at the wheel.
“Our plans to double penalties for this serious crime should act as an incredibly strong deterrent.
“We will continue to explore what more can be done to tackle this crime.”
The move has been welcomed by the RAC, who says "technology has a significant role to play in making driving safer".
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “The reality is that cars will become increasingly sophisticated and enabled with connected, mobile-phone based technology – but we have to ensure that this makes them safer and less distracting.
“To this end a ‘drive safe’ mode has a role to play in helping motorists do the right thing while behind the wheel. Indeed, many smartphones already have a ‘do not disturb’ function that, when activated, limits some intrusive phone alerts.
“Technology can help, but on its own it is unlikely to be enough. We need a comprehensive package of actions to tackle the problem at every level, from the stronger penalties due next year, to tougher enforcement, combined with a greater focus on engaging drivers themselves on the issue in an effort to make them want to change their own behaviour – and in turn make our roads safer.”