A new method is being employed by National Highways to catch out drivers who are using their mobile phone at the wheel or if occupants of the car are not wearing a seatbelt.

National Highways has deployed a van with multiple cameras to film passing vehicles on motorways and major A roads.

The footage is analysed using artificial intelligence to determine if motorists were using a handheld phone or whether any vehicle occupants were not wearing a seatbelt.

The van, which is stationary at the side of the road while in use, is being trialled for nearly three months in partnership with Warwickshire Police.

It is capable of being fitted with additional technology to detect tailgating, although that is not part of the pilot scheme.

Redditch Advertiser: A National Highways filming passing cars (National Highways/PA)A National Highways filming passing cars (National Highways/PA)

Drivers spotted committing mobile phone or seatbelt offences are issued with warning letters by police and asked to complete a survey to assist National Highways’ research.

The use of the detection van is part of National Highways’ commitment to eliminating deaths and serious injuries on its roads by 2040.

Government figures show 17 people were killed and a further 114 were seriously injured in crashes on Britain’s roads in 2020 in which a driver using a phone was a contributory factor.

Nearly a quarter of all car occupant fatalities in 2020 were not wearing a seatbelt when the crash happened.

READ MORENew stricter laws for using mobile phones while driving

A trial of a fixed camera on the M4 in Berkshire last year detected more than 25,000 drivers holding a phone and nearly 7,000 people failing to belt up in just six months, which was the first time the technology had been used in the UK.

The Government-owned company’s head of road safety, Jeremy Phillips, said: “Sadly, there are still drivers who do not feel the need to wear a seatbelt, become distracted by their phones or travel too close to the vehicle in front.

“We want to see if we can change driver behaviour and therefore improve road safety for everyone.

“Our advice is clear: please leave enough space, buckle up and give the road your full attention.”

Motorists can be handed six penalty points and a £200 fine for holding a phone when they are behind the wheel.

In the most serious cases taken to court, offenders can be handed a fine of up to £2,500.

The maximum punishment for not wearing a seatbelt is a £500 fine.