Police are trialling new traffic cameras which can detect drivers using their phone at the wheel or driving without a seatbelt.
Traffic officers in Devon and Cornwall will be using the new technology over the next two months to crack down on offences not caught by regular speed cameras.
The van-mounted Acusensus uses multiple cameras to monitor traffic and its Australian makers say it is capable of capturing images of every passing vehicle, even at speeds of up to 186mph.
Images from the cameras are processed using artificial intelligence systems which can identify if a driver is holding a mobile phone or not wearing their seatbelt. Any image where a suspected offence is detected is then reviewed by a police officer before action is taken. If an offence has been correctly identified, the driver will either be sent a warning letter or a notice of intended prosecution, depending on the severity.
Drivers caught on camera as part of the trial can expect the same punishment as if they had been caught on the spot by a police patrol. Mobile phone offenders face a £200 fine and six penalty points while those caught without a seatbelt face a fine of up between £100 and £500.
Mobile phone laws were updated earlier this year to outlaw any use of a handheld device while driving, closing a loophole that had previously allowed motorists to escape prosecution.
Superintendent Adrian Leisk, from Devon & Cornwall Police, said he hoped the technology would send a clear message to drivers who continued to ignore the law.
He said: “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.
“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.
“Whether it’s by the Acusensus cameras, a passing officer or on video footage submitted through Op Snap, the result will be the same and you will end up with a hefty fine and six penalty points – which could be enough to cost some drivers their licence.”
The system’s introduction comes after new government data showed a sharp rise in the number of road deaths where the victim was not wearing a seat belt.
Some 30% of people killed in cars on Britain’s roads last year were not wearing a seatbelt, according to data published by the Department for Transport (DfT). That is up from 23% during the previous 12 months and represents the highest annual percentage in records dating back to 2013.
The Acusensus camera technology has previously been trialled by police in Warwickshire, in conjunction with National Highways.