An HGV driver who took both hands off the steering wheel to make a credit card payment on his phone was among more than 3,000 reckless motorists caught by police using unmarked lorries in the past year.
Video footage of the trucker travelling along the M40 near Leamington Spa has been released by Highways England to mark the first anniversary of the launch of the “supercabs”.
Police forces across England have been using the three unmarked HGV cabs to monitor driver behaviour and catch careless and dangerous drivers in the act.
Danger on the roads
The trucker on the M40 was one of a number caught letting go of the steering wheel completely to use his phone. Other footage captured using the cabs included a van driver who was using one hand to change gear and the other to hold his mobile phone. The driver of a pick-up truck was also filmed using both hands to write a text message on his phone.
Among the most common offences detected by the police trucks were people not wearing a seat belt (1,195 were), drivers using a mobile phone (1,062), motorists not in proper control of their vehicle (262) and speeding drivers (118).
Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “We introduced the three new HGV supercabs last year to help keep the roads safe and tackle dangerous driving by people who have either got into bad habits or are simply ignoring the law.
“The cabs have helped to identify over 3,000 unsafe drivers over the past year, and we hope our week of action on the M1 will encourage everyone to think about what more they could do to improve how they drive.”
The three supercabs patrol motorways and major A roads across England, and have been used by 29 police forces over the past year in a safety initiative known as Operation Tramline.
They give officers a higher vantage point to spot and film evidence of unsafe driving behaviour by pulling up alongside vehicles, and drivers are then pulled over by police cars following a short distance behind.
Police officers issued 462 penalty charge notices and filed 2,533 traffic offence reports – usually requiring drivers to attend a driver education course. There were also 73 prosecutions for more serious offences.
Police have employed similar tactics using buses to catch offenders in urban locations.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: “Operation Tramline is a successful collaboration between the police and Highways England.
“We remain committed to tackling those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and the safety of others on our roads by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. The consequences of these actions are often devastating.
“We will continue to work alongside Highways England on Operation Tramline and will prosecute drivers who ignore the risks.
Tom Cotton, the Road Haulage Association’s head of licencing and infrastructure policy, commented: “We need to improve road safety – there’s a small minority of drivers whose actions endanger other road users often with tragic consequences.
“Operation Tramline is an invaluable initiative to help police catch the drivers putting themselves and others at risk.”