Pioneering technology to help combat drivers who use their mobile phone while driving is being trialled in Sussex.

The technology, known as a Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS), detects the use of mobile phones within vehicles when they travel past the sign. It will initially be trialled in Brighton and Hove before being rolled out across Sussex, if the pilot scheme is deemed successful.

The VAS flashes a warning at motorists instructing them to put their mobile phone down if they are found to be using it at the wheel. The system is designed purely to act as a warning to drivers to increase awareness about the use of mobile phones. It will not result in any drivers being prosecuted.

In Sussex, 1,800 drivers were caught using their mobile phone while driving during 2014, despite a ban coming into force in the UK in 2003. If caught, offending drivers face a £100 fine and three penalty points.

According to a survey of 500 people conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), 18 percent of respondents claimed to have accessed the internet while driving and nine percent admitted to taking a ‘selfie’ while driving during the last month.

Helen Williams, a road traffic accident solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The IAM survey clearly indicates that people who are using their mobile phone behind the wheel are not just making phone calls.

“Any driver who recklessly uses their phone behind the wheel for any purpose is not only breaking the law, but is also risking the safety of themselves, their passengers and other road users.

“While this technology will not help to physically prosecute drivers, we welcome any development which helps to raise awareness of road safety issues.

"We would call for police forces to be given access to more resources so that they can tackle the issue of mobile phone use head on, and hope VAS technology may go some way in improving road safety by dissuading people from using a phone while driving.”