National Highways has published footage of a lorry driver caught using two mobile phones at the same time as he drove along the M5.
But, it points out, what he didn’t realise was the vehicle travelling alongside was an unmarked National Highways ‘HGV cab’ – and there were two police officers inside.
The footage, taken between junctions 18 and 17 by Avon and Somerset Police, captures one of over 21,000 offences recorded by officers in the Operation Tramline HGV cabs since the national safety initiative was launched by National Highways, formerly Highways England.
The National Highways HGV cabs are now being used as part of a multi-agency fortnight of action along the M4 and M5, taking place from Monday 13 September to Sunday 26 September, which aims to reduce the number of incidents on the motorways and highlight the risks of dangerous driving.
Elsewhere in the South West, a truck driver who initially provided false details to Devon and Cornwall Police during an operation last month was later identified as disqualified and arrested, while Wiltshire Police caught a motorist speeding at 121mph along the M4 during a four-day operation earlier this year.
Devon and Cornwall Police’s July operation recorded:
- 7 people driving without a seat belt
- 15 driving while using a mobile phone at the wheel
- 2 positive cases of drug driving
- 66 offences in total, including 10 speeding and 4 with no insurance.
In just four days, the Wiltshire force dealt with drivers for the following offences:
- 19 driving without a seat belt
- 8 driving while using a mobile phone at the wheel
- 1 arrest for possession of Class B drugs
- 6 Traffic Offence Reports for speeding, with 121mph being the fastest
A Gloucestershire Police operation in May saw:
- 44 driving without a seat belt
- 19 driving while using a mobile phone at the wheel
- 8 Traffic Offence Reports for speeding
- 8 other misdemeanours, including two insecure loads and one of driving with no insurance
Avon and Somerset Police, meanwhile, have utilised the HGV cab over four weeks this year, and recorded the following offences in that time:
- 186 driving without a seat belt
- 26 driving while using a mobile phone at the wheel
- 17 Traffic Offence Reports for speeding
- 129 other offences, including insecure loads and driving without due care and attention
Under the banner of Operation Peninsula, the campaign will be operating along the M4 between junctions 14 and 18, and the M5 from junction 8 to junction 31.
National Highways deals with countless incidents on the M5 and M4 motorways, and in the latest figures, the company attended a large number of traffic collisions – 526 on the M4 and 821 on the M5 in 2019. Since the launch of Operation Tramline in 2015, more than 21,600 offences have been recorded on the National Highways motorway network. The most common offences have included:
- using a mobile phone – 6,073
- not wearing a seatbelt – 6,253
- not in proper control of vehicle – 1,501
- speeding – 1,199
In total, 19,564 vehicles have been stopped in Operation Tramline between July 2015 and April 2021. In that time, a number of bizarre and dangerous behaviours have been spotted:
- a driver steering a lorry with his knees while eating lunch on his lap and using a phone in the East Midlands
- in West Mercia, a driver eating lasagne with a knife and fork while driving along a motorway
- a HGV driver boiling a kettle on the dashboard and another eating pickled gherkins from a jar with his elbows on the steering wheel in Surrey
“The HGV cabs are an important part of our commitment to tackling unsafe driving and those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and that of others on the road,” explained Nicholas Reed, National Highways’ Road Safety Lead for the South West. “The number of people found using their mobile phone while driving is quite alarming. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone and, if caught, face a £200 fine and six points on your licence., Through this fortnight of action on the M5 and M4 we want to make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour.”
National Highways says that, from their elevated viewpoint in the unmarked HGV cabs, police officers are able to spot people driving dangerously – whatever vehicle they may be in.
(Picture – National Highways)