Police can now see if you’re on your phone while driving

Warning sign driving phone

Select police forces will deploy a system that can detect if drivers are using their phone while driving. A sign will flash, telling drivers they have been seen and to stop using their mobile phone.

How does it work and what can it do?

Signs will light up with the shape of a phone and a red strike through it when the system detects someone using their phone in the car. To clarify, it will not be able to differentiate whether it’s the passenger or the driver on their phone. It’s also unable to record footage.

The system, developed by Westcotec, is able to detect when 2G, 3G or 4G signals are being sent out, specifically when a phone is being used, using a directional antenna. Bluetooth hands-free devices will trigger the system, but the sign won’t flash.

The detectors cost £6,000 each and will be deployed and trialled at various points around the constituencies.

“Not an enforcement tool”

Warning sign driving phone

The Thames Valley and Hampshire forces, which will be the first to roll out the technology, have stated that it will not be used to enforce phone driving laws. The goal is to ‘educate motorists’ and to find areas where drivers using their phone behind the wheel is a problem. The systems being moved around constituencies should allow the forces to build a map of where people using their phone at the wheel is an issue.

Generally speaking, it should act as a deterrent. A statement by local authorities that says: ‘we can see you’, to drivers using their phone behind the wheel. Whether or not the system will be used to ‘catch’ drivers in the same way cameras catch you speeding, remains to be seen.

We wouldn’t be surprised, given the goal is to make using your phone while driving ‘as socially unacceptable as drink-driving’. For now, as above, the systems serve as a benign warning. 

Three in five young drivers admit to using their phone while driving

mobile phone use behind the wheel

New research has revealed that as many as six in ten young drivers admit to using their phone behind the wheel. This shocking figure accompanies a range of discoveries about UK motorist’s dangerous phone-using habits when driving.

There’s no ‘in traffic’ versus ‘while moving’ distinction

Before we get into the numbers, the rules. It is unlawful to have a phone in your hand while you are in the driving seat of a car with the engine on. As such, there is no distinction between being in traffic or sitting still for any other reason, and moving. Both are illegal. Nevertheless, drivers are more likely to pick up their phones when in traffic.

That’s where the 58 percent figure comes from, with very nearly three-in-five 18-24 year-olds admitting they use their phone in some way when waiting in traffic. Worryingly, that’s only two percent more than the 56 percent of young people that admitted to using their phone while on the move.

One-in-four use their phone while on the move

mobile phone use behind the wheel

As for all drivers in general, 34 percent admitted to using their phone in traffic and 25 percent admitted to using their phone while moving. One in four of us admit to using our phones while on the move. That in itself is a scary figure.

What phones are being used for behind the wheel

What are we admitting to doing on our phones while driving? The most popular activity seems to be checking messages and emails, with 18 and 13 percent respectively doing so while stationary and while moving.

Coming in second is changing music and programming the sat nav. Worryingly, three percent more young drivers do so while moving than the 30 percent that admitted to it while standing still. Similarly, seven percent of young people admitted to taking a photograph while moving, compared to the five percent that admitted to doing so while sat still.

Any use of a phone while driving can incur a £200 fine and six points on your licence. Young drivers who’ve had their licence for under two years, that could mean disqualification. Food for thought that, apparently, few are gobbling up…

“Using a phone behind the wheel should be as unacceptable as drink driving”

mobile phone use behind the wheel

“Using a phone behind the wheel should be as unacceptable as drink-driving, with studies showing that reaction times whilst texting are double those of drink-drivers,” said Samuel Nahk, spokesperson for Brake, the road safety charity.

“This new research makes it clear that mobile phone use behind the wheel is all too prevalent and a crackdown is required to rid our roads of this menace.”

Handheld mobile phone

Handheld mobile epidemic: 95% of motorists ‘regularly’ see other drivers using phones

Handheld mobile phoneA staggering 95% of motorists say they regularly see other drivers using their mobile phones while at a standstill in traffic – despite the practice being illegal.

The RAC survey of more than 2,000 drivers goes a step further too: almost two in three motorists say they saw at least one driver using a mobile phone behind the wheel in the last hour.

Mobile phone use at traffic lights is particularly rife: 84% say they see it often and 16% say they see this on every journey.

It’s now reached epidemic levels, says the motoring organisation.

And why are drivers doing it? Surprisingly, the majority (more than 60%) say it’s to make a short phone call – despite many modern cars coming with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity as standard.

Around half say they use their mobile in traffic to check email or text messages, and a similar number use the time to send text messages. Surprisingly, only around 7% admit to checking social media.

Using a mobile at the wheel IS illegal

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “13 years after the introduction of the current law forbidding use of a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle, this behaviour is far from being stamped out.

“The results of our research suggests the problem has got worse rather than better.”

Many people don’t even realise using a mobile in traffic is illegal, says Williams. “There seems to be an unfortunate perception that a quick look at a phone at the traffic lights is okay.

“However, it is a significant distraction which at best may hold up other road users when a driver doesn’t notice that the lights have changed, and at worst may increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle.”

What should be done? More road traffic police officers would be a start, as “there is very little fear among offenders of being caught”.

What’s also needed is a high profile advertising campaign, similar to the ones for drink-driving and speeding. “Using a hand held phone should be regarded as being as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.”

The current fine for using a handheld mobile phone while driving is three penalty points and a £100 fine. The government is consulting on increasing the fine to £150, and increasing penalty points for HGV drivers using mobile phones from three to four.

In car on mobile phone

Mobile phone driving prosecutions down – but are motorists really using their phones behind the wheel less?

In car on mobile phoneThe RAC has discovered prosecutions for using a mobile phone while driving have fallen by almost half between 2009 and 2014 – despite Department for Transport figures showing drivers are still using their phones behind the wheel as much as they ever have.

This, says the RAC, shows a “worrying mismatch between what motorists see happening on our roads and what drivers are being prosecuted for”.

The law making it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel was introduced in December 2003; the penalty is currently three points and a £100 fine.

In 2014, 17,414 drivers were prosecuted for using a mobile phone in magistrates’ courts – that’s 15,157 fewer than in 2009.

Motorists are only summoned to court if they ignore a fixed penalty noticed issued by police (and more than 9 in 10 are usually found guilty). This is the most likely penalty for using a mobile phone while driving; here, the fall is even greater, with 57% fewer fixed penalty notices being issued in 2013 than 2011.

The numbers are stark – 123,100 fixed penalty notices for mobile phone use were issued in 2011, falling to 52,400 in 2013.

Despite this plunge in prosecutions, Department for Transport figures show mobile phone use while driving remains unchanged; in 2014, 1.6% of motorists (more than 500,000 drivers) were observed using a mobile phone, compared to 1.4% in 2009.

‘Enormous gulf’ between law and reality

RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “There is still an enormous gulf between what the law states – that handheld mobile phones should not be used behind the wheel – and what motorists see happening on our roads.”

This, explained Williams, is because of large reductions in the number of traffic cops – down an average of 23% across the country between 2010 and 2014, “meaning there are 1,279 fewer officers patrolling our roads”.

More traffic police would help better impose the law, but Williams has other suggestions too. “Can technology play a greater role in helping catch offenders? Is there also a role for a national public awareness campaign on the dangers of using a phone at the wheel, similar to the hard-hitting campaigns which have helped stigmatise drink-driving?

“The goal for ministers and policymakers is surely to make the use of mobile phones at the wheel as socially unacceptable as drink-driving,” added Williams.

There is an “overwhelming frustration that too many drivers are simply getting away with it”. Do you agree? Let us know.

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

The best new mobile apps for August 2015The ingenuity and skill of app developers across the world continues to amaze us, and once again they’ve been busy putting out new apps for the popular smartphone platforms this month.

The range from making yourself understood while abroad and improving your mood, to making your own music and video messaging friends more easily…


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Moodnotes is a journal-style app that aims to improve how you feel by getting your thoughts down on (digital) paper and working through the feelings they bring up. The idea is that by identifying what influences your mood you can change your perspective and develop healthier thinking habits.

The only downside is you need to pay £2.99 to see if it works, but the developers are the same team behind the excellent Monument Valley. [£2.99 on iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

The latest in a long line of apps promising to help you get your inbox in order and prevent email from taking over your life — as long as you use Gmail.

Once you’ve connected InboxVudu to your Google account, it can prioritise the most important messages, remind you about emails you need to follow up on, and schedule meetings effectively. You can also use InboxVudu’s magic with Gmail on the Web. [Free on iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

MSTY — which stands for My Song To You, in case you were wondering — is a new twist on the instant messenger and is based around music. Pick a song from the extensive catalogue, add an image, write your message and you can send the whole package to a contact of your choice.

You might find it easier to just send a track through Spotify’s messaging system but MSTY is an interesting idea and well worth a look. [Free on Android and iOS]

Microsoft Translator

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Google Translator isn’t the only app in town for getting your phrases from one lingo into another. 50 different languages are supported and because the app works with audio as well as text you can practice your pronunciation too.

If you’re a paid-up member of the smartwatch revolution then the app can be accessed from Android Wear devices or the Apple Watch for even easier translations on the move. [Free on Android and iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Sway is another app from Microsoft, this time one designed to help you pull together text, images, links and other elements in an appealing format that’s a breeze to swipe through — it’s pretty much PowerPoint for the mobile generation and it’s also available on the Web (though not on Android yet).

Use it for reports, presentations, newsletters, personal stories and more. [Free on iOS]

Ninja Jamm

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Out for a while now on iOS, Ninja Jamm makes the jump to Android devices this month and so earns a spot in our round-up. It’s a music-making workflow that manages to strike the right balance between accessibility and sophistication: anyone can dive right in and start creating, but there are more advanced tools here too if you need them.

You get four packs of content free and you can pay if you need more raw material. [Free on Android and iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

There’s an awful lot of news and gossip to keep up with on today’s Web, and working your way through it isn’t easy.

Wildcard wants to help out by giving you the most important stories in bite-sized chunks that you can digest whenever you have a spare moment: it’s not a completely new app but the version 2.0 released this month is a significant upgrade. Popular stories you like can be browsed in depth. [Free on iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Kaboom takes the Snapchat idea of disappearing messages and applies it to your other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter (it also works with email, SMS and WhatsApp).

You craft your message, set when you want it to expire, and Kaboom takes care of the rest — your friends don’t even need to be using it for it to work. Just remember a quick screenshot can make your post a lot more permanent. [Free on Android and iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

As mature as our smartphone platforms now are, developers are still trying to crack the challenge of bringing together contacts from various different services into one central hub.

This is easier on Android of course, where you can completely replace the dialler app, and that’s exactly what Drupe does: recent interactions are collected by contact and you can simply swipe someone’s avatar over to an app shortcut to get in touch. [Free on Android]

Morpholio Journal

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Morpholio Journal isn’t the first app we’ve seen to let you jot down your ideas and imaginings on a digital scrap of paper, but it’s certainly one of the best-looking and easiest to use. Who knows, you might find yourself coming up with an idea that makes you famous.

Photos and text can both be added in, and if you want some more drawing and background options you can pay inside the app. [Freemium on iOS]

Yahoo Livetext

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Yahoo was one of the original dot com companies but it’s struggling to stay relevant in the new mobile-first world. Livetext is its latest attempt to get traction with smartphone users: it’s a live video messaging service reminiscent of Snapchat or Periscope, but the twist is there’s no audio, so you can view your messages in the library.

It could still use some polish but it’s a promising start for Yahoo’s latest venture. [Free on Android and iOS]

Down The Mountain

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

If you’re looking for a new game to while away those spare moments in the office canteen or on the train, you could do a lot worse than Down The Mountain.

Okay, it’s not the most original game in the world in terms of either mechanics or appearance, but it’s still a lot of fun and nicely designed — your aim is to make your way down an infinite mountain, picking up stars and power-ups and avoiding enemies along the way. [Freemium on Android and iOS]

Farms & Castles

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Our second game pick of the month is a far more sedate affair. Farms & Castles uses a simple puzzle gameplay mechanic but it’s very addictive and you’ll find yourself constantly wanting to dip back into the game or spend just a few more minutes trying to build your empire.

The appealing visuals and option to compete against your friends both help, and the magic orbs and trading possibilities keep the game from being boring. [Freemium on Android and iOS]


The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Lrn promises to help you “learn to code at your convenience” — it introduces you gently into the basics of coding for the web and for mobile devices.

Rather than giving you stacks of dry and impenetrable information, it uses interactive mini-quizzes to help you remember different terms and functions, though you need to pay within the app once you move on to more advanced topics. An Android version is coming soon. [Freemium on iOS]

Monospace Writer

The best new mobile apps for August 2015

Get some clarity in your writing with the help of Monospace Writer, a pared-down, minimalistic word processor for Android with a beta label still attached. It supports basic text formatting, Dropbox syncing, Markdown exports and a simple tagging system to keep your notes organised.

Whether you want to write the next great novel or just keep a shopping list close at hand, Monospace Writer is worth checking out and designed specifically for touch interfaces. [Free for Android]