HAMPSHIRE police have launched a new campaign to cut the number of crashes caused by drivers using their mobile phone at the wheel.

Officers are among the first in the UK to use a new detector which can tell when people are holding their phones while driving.

The equipment pinpoints how many motorists on a particular stretch of road are not using a hands-free device, enabling police to target hotspots.

It comes after several fatal incidents involving drivers on the phone at the time of the collision or just beforehand.

In 2016 a lorry driver who caused an accident in which two men were killed on the M271 near Southampton was jailed for six years.

Keith Mees, 49, of Newall, Derbyshire, ploughed into stationary traffic after using his mobile to access Facebook. A car containing Marian Olteanu, 35, and Ion Calin, 42, both from Southampton, was crushed between two HGVs. A third person was seriously hurt.

Mees admitted two offences of causing death by dangerous driving and one of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Judge Nicholas Rowland told him: “You were distracted for 20 seconds when you should have been paying attention to the road. You touched the screen four seconds before the collision.”

The new equipment will be used by police in Hampshire and Thames Valley force and is already monitoring the A34 in Oxfordshire.

Police say the roadside device can tell when a driver is using his or her mobile phone without Bluetooth.

As well as pinpointing the number of offenders it also flashes a mobile phone symbol at each culprit’s car in a bid to persuade them to obey the law.

People caught using their mobile phone at the wheel can be banned from driving and fined up to £1,000.

PC Liz Johnson said: “Research shows you’re four times more likely to crash if you are using a mobile phone whilst driving.”

The new technology has been developed by the Norfolk-based company Westcotec.