Highways England monitors driver infringements with unmarked HGV cab10 November 2017

Video footage released by Highways England showed a trucker checking his phone while his right foot was on the dashboard.

The driver, stopped by Humberside Police, was travelling from the M18 onto the M62 near Goole.

Another driver pulled over by Devon and Cornwall Police was found to have sent 10 replies to 10 texts within one hour; a driver in Surrey was seen trying to put toothpaste on a toothbrush; and a driver in the East Midlands was spotted steering with his knees while he ate his lunch and used his mobile phone.

The offenders were among more than 4,000 dangerous drivers on England’s roads caught by a single unmarked HGV cab, funded by Highways England, over the past two years. The elevated position of the cab allows police officers to film unsafe driving behaviour by pulling up alongside vehicles on motorways and major A roads. Drivers are then pulled over by police cars following behind.

Latest statistics show that mobile phone use is a factor in an average of two deaths on the roads every month, with 124 people losing their lives over the past five years and 521 suffering a serious injury, according to Highways England. Earlier this year, the government doubled the penalty for drivers caught using their phones at the wheel. Motorists now receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine – up from the previous three points and £100 fine.

Nearly two thirds of the drivers who were stopped were illegally using a mobile phone while driving, putting themselves and others at risk.

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s Head of Road Safety, said that the cab has been patrolling motorways and major A roads over the past couple of years with the aim of improving road safety.

He added: “We’ve found that the vast majority of drivers are sensible behind the wheel but a few have got into bad habits, or are simply ignoring the law and putting themselves and others at risk.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: “Police forces are committed to keeping our roads safe and partnership with Highways England is absolutely crucial for that, as we can see from the thousands of offences detected by the HGV cab. Together with targeted local action by police officers, this has become an important element of our intelligence-led operations against dangerous driving.

In total, 28 police forces have taken part in the HGV cab safety initiative since it began in April 2015, pulling over 4,176 drivers in relation to 5,039 offences.

Officers gave verbal advice to 388 drivers, issued 838 fixed or graduated penalty notices, and filed 3,318 traffic offence reports – usually requiring attendance at a driver education course. There were also 113 prosecutions for more serious offences.

Reasons for stopping drivers included: using mobile phones (2,508); not wearing seatbelts (901); not in proper control of vehicles (253) and speeding (249).

The National Police Chief’s Council have provided further information which shows that whilst 45% of vehicles stopped were heavy goods vehicle; cars, coaches and vans accounted for the remaining 55%, according to information supplied by the Road Haulage Association, which supported the enforcement action.

Commenting, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “All drivers must drive safely and pay due care and attention to all road users and must comply with the Highway Code. We constantly push the message that drivers should not use hand held mobile phones or any other devices – electronic of otherwise - while driving. Any distraction puts the driver of the vehicle and other road users; including pedestrians at risk.”

UK-based HGV drivers face severe consequences for failing to comply with the Highway Code, including loss of their vocational driving licences by the Traffic Commissioners, when appearing at disciplinary hearings following police enforcement action.

Will Dalrymple

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