Campaign to tackle ‘quite alarming’ motorway driving by motorists on mobiles

Police forces across central England are taking part in a week-long campaign aimed at reducing incidents of dangerous driving on motorways.

May 24, 2021
By Website Editor

Operation Vertebrae, which is being led by Highways England, will run along the M6 from May 24 to 30 using officers from Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Warwickshire, along with members of the Central Motorway Police Group and the North West Commercial Vehicle Unit.

The operation will make use of unmarked ‘supercabs’, which have an elevated viewpoint to assist officers in spotting dangerous incidents. First introduced in 2015, officers in supercabs regularly witness drivers paying no regard for the safety of other road users.

In one incident, a lorry driver on the M40 was spotting looking down and texting. He simply shrugged and put his thumb up when he eventually spotted the police officers, Highways England said.

At the time this was happening a car driver, oblivious to the officers in the HGV cab alongside him, had a mobile phone in his right hand.

It was only when he heard the police siren that he put the phone down.

A driver in the East Midlands was caught steering a lorry with his knees while eating lunch on his lap and using his phone.

West Mercia officers saw a driver eating lasagne with a knife and fork while driving along a motorway.

Surrey Police spotted an HGV driver boiling a kettle on the dashboard and another eating pickled gherkins from a jar with his elbows on the steering wheel.

Highways England’s head of road safety, Jeremy Phillips, said the number of people using a phone while driving was “quite alarming” as they are “four times more likely to be in a crash” and could face a £200 fine and six points on their licence.

The M6 campaign aims to “make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour”, he said.

Officials working on Operation Vertebrae will offer advice at motorway services to drivers on issues such as what to do in a breakdown and ensuring load safety.

Vehicle checks will be carried out involving the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Home Office.

Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said tackling people who take unnecessary risks by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving is important because “the consequences of these actions are often devastating”.

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