Drivers urged to belt-up and ignore their phones whilst travelling

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Road safety survey camera van

South Gloucestershire Council’s road safety team are reminding motorists to ensure they always wear seatbelts and never use mobile phones whilst driving.

The council has worked in partnership with Acusensus and AECOM to deploy new roadside camera technology, which can detect motorists who are not wearing a seatbelt or using mobile phones while driving. The initiative is part of the council’s road safety team’s vision zero objective, to eliminate serious and fatal injuries to road users as a result of crashes.

Images that are captured are initially processed using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse whether the motorists could be using a handheld mobile phone or people in the vehicle are not wearing a seat belt. If the AI identifies a likely offence, the images are sent on for review by at least two specially trained operators. Where no offence is detected, images are automatically deleted.

Images from the 12 hour survey at the end of March revealed that 150 people were detected not wearing a seatbelt and seven people were distracted by mobile phones whilst driving.

The survey showed evidence of drivers choosing not to wear a seatbelt and making a deliberate choice to bypass vehicle onboard safety features in order to do so, putting lives at risk.

Whilst the equipment has been used to enforce these driving offences in other regions, it was used in South Gloucestershire for survey purposes only. Although the data collected has now been deleted, the results of deploying the cameras will inform the Road Safety Team, and their partners, for future road safety interventions.

Current figures show that there were 425 people injured on roads in South Gloucestershire in 2023, 69 of these resulted in death or serious injury.

Drivers being distracted by their phone is a key factor in causing collisions and those not wearing seatbelts are twice as likely to die in the event of a crash.

Pamela Williams, Road Safety Education and Sustainable Travel Training Manager at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We know that distracted driving and not wearing seatbelts are contributory factors in people being killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions.

“Working with our partners we want to reduce such dangerous driving and reduce the risks posed to both the drivers and other people. We believe that using technology like this will make people seriously consider their driving behaviour and help make sure everyone using our roads gets home safe and well.”

Dr Jamie Uff, Technical Director at AECOM and the lead research professional managing the deployment of the technology, said: “AECOM is really pleased to be continuing our work with South Gloucestershire Council and Acusensus. Despite the efforts of road safety organisations to change behaviour through education, the numbers of people killed or seriously injured as a result of these unsafe driving practices remains high. The use of technology like this makes detection of these behaviours straightforward and is providing valuable insight to the police and policy makers.”

A video about the survey is available here https://youtu.be/4xdYPmkTVpQ

For more information about road safety in South Gloucestershire visit www.southglos.gov.uk/roadsafety