Police in the West country are trialling new technology that can capture motorists who are using their phone while driving, as well as not wearing a seatbelt.

It is now illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless via a hands-free device. Devon and Cornwall Police are trialling the use of stationary force vehicles equipped with specialist cameras that record footage of passing cars.

Images captured by the cameras are processed using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine if motorists were using a handheld mobile phone or if drivers and passengers were without a seat belt. It can also determine the speed a vehicle was travelling at the time. If an offence has been correctly identified in any images, the driver will either be sent a warning letter or a notice of intended prosecution, depending on the severity.

The trial is being funded by the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership.

“Using a mobile phone while driving is both dangerous and illegal. It puts the lives of the driver, passengers and other road users at risk – and that is unacceptable,” said Supt Adrian Leisk, strategic roads policing lead for Devon and Cornwall Police.

“Despite repeated messaging and even a change in the law which makes any contact with a mobile phone while driving illegal, sadly there are still some people who continue to ignore the rules. We are employing this new technology to send a clear message to anyone who continues to use their phone behind the wheel – you will get caught.”