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New Smart Road Signs Detect Phone Use and Flash Warnings to Distracted Drivers

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Distracted driving has easily become the most pressing public health concern of our time. In many states, distracted drivers are now the leading cause of auto fatalities. Despite the data revealing just how dangerous and widespread this problem is, recent surveys have found that the majority of drivers still don’t believe distracted driving is as dangerous as experts and law enforcement agencies know it to be. What’s it going to take to stop this growing deadly threat? One UK-based technology firm thinks it has the answer: smart road signs which react to the presence of distracted drivers.

The city of Norfolk in England is testing new roadside warning signs which can detect when a phone or other mobile device is being used in a moving vehicle. When the sign detects an active mobile signal in an approaching vehicle, it flashes a warning sign with an icon of a phone with a red line through it.

The signs are designed by Westcotec, a manufacturer of speed and warning signs staffed by several former law enforcement officials. Chris Spinks, former head of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit who now works at Westcotec, told the BBC believes these signs can make at least a small dent in the growing distracted driving problem, but admits they’re far from perfect:

So many people, by force of habit, can’t resist using their phone. The system cannot differentiate between a driver and the passengers on a bus, for example, but this goes some way towards remotely warning drivers that they can be detected using their phone.

The signs are currently being tested in several locations throughout Norfolk to determine their potential effectiveness. One thing to ponder, though: will distracted drivers even see these flashing warning signs if they’re looking down at their phones choosing the perfect emoji, though?

It seems if people want to use their phones in the car, they’ll find a way to do it no matter what systems are put in place. However, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to curb the problem.

What we really need is a massive shift in how we think about driving in general. It’s easily the most dangerous thing we do each day. Why make it more dangerous by using your phone in the car?

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