'Half a million' break seat belt law every day analysis suggests

18/06/2024
Chris Ames

A road safety enforcement expert has called for new measures to improve driver behaviour after a roadside survey revealed ‘alarming’ numbers of distracted and unrestrained drivers.

Roadside technology provider Acusensus said an analysis of data from the Department for Transport (DfT) indicates that there may be more than 50,000 instances of people driving while using a hand-held phone every day, along with half a million not wearing a seatbelt.

The headline figures from a project led by AECOM found three in every thousand drivers using a mobile phone, with the proportion of van drivers breaking the law three times that of car drivers.

The data also showed 4.8% of vehicle passengers were observed not wearing a seatbelt.

The survey data was collected using Acusensus ‘Heads Up’ technology, using bespoke roadside cameras to capture clear images through windscreens.

Each site was surveyed on a weekday, either in the morning or afternoon, for a period of six hours and these observations were then analysed by human review.

Geoff Collins of Acusensus described the numbers as ‘alarming’ when extrapolated to reflect the millions of journeys made each day.

He said: ‘Distracted driving and not using a seatbelt are two of the “fatal five” risk factors, most likely to lead to serious harm when driving.

‘The Heads Up technology not only helps to provide this background understanding but can also be used to provide violation records that are used for prosecution or education purposes, which has now been successfully carried out by many UK police forces.'

Mr Collins said that because drivers who don’t wear their seatbelts are likely to do this throughout their journey but hand-held mobile phone use is not usually continuous and might not be seen at the survey point, ‘it is possibly misleading to think that more seatbelt violations occur’.

Acusensus said its equipment can also use Artificial Intelligence-based image analysis to flag up likely violations.

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