A tea-sipping driver who removed both his hands from the wheel while being reprimanded by police was just one of hundreds of drivers caught flouting the rules of the road.
The unwitting road user was filmed on the M6 in Cheshire last summer as part of Operation Tramline – a multi-agency initiative to make our motorways safer using unmarked cabs operated by police.
He can be seen sipping from a mug of tea and removing his hands from the wheel before a police officer tells him to concentrate on driving.
He was issued a traffic offence report for not being in proper control of his vehicle. This resulted in three points being added to his licence and a £100 fine.
Police in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Hull and Liverpool Ports Police will once again be using National Highways’ unmarked HGV cabs in a bid to reduce and prevent accidents on the road network.
The aim of the multi-agency Month of Action on the M62 – dubbed Operation Pennine – is to reduce the number of incidents on the motorway.
Operation Pennine launches today (Friday 29 September 2023) and will continue throughout the month of October.
Hundreds of thousands of drivers travel on the M62 every day and in 2022 there were 28,607 incidents on the M62. Of those 28,607 incidents, 1,651 were traffic collisions.
In 2022, West Yorkshire Police recorded 105 people not wearing a seatbelt while driving on the M62, 99 people using their mobile phone at the wheel and 32 drivers not in proper control of their vehicle. Officers also stopped 279 people for speeding.
During the same year, Merseyside police found 30 people to not be wearing a seatbelt, 59 using mobile phone and eight people not in proper control of their vehicle. A further 140 people were found to have been speeding.
Officers in the cabs will be looking out for similar incidents of illegal driving – such as this driver who was spotted at the wheel of a lorry without his seatbelt on.
This driver was spotted on the M56 in Cheshire near junction 14 and was later handed a £100 fine.
From the elevated position in the HGV cab, officers can spot unsafe driving behaviour – whatever vehicle the motorist may be in.
Another driver was spotted with his mobile phone in his left hand while steering with his right hand.
The most common offences across the motorway network, managed by National Highways, are not wearing a seatbelt, using a mobile phone and not being in proper control of a vehicle.
Consequences for drivers range from warnings to fixed penalty notices, court summons or arrest.
Lisa Scott, National Highways’ Regional Safety Programme Manager for the North West, said:
“Hundreds of thousands of drivers use our roads every day and the vast majority are sensible behind the wheel. However, some drivers are putting themselves and others at risk through using mobile phones, driving without a seatbelt or even handling a boiling hot drink at the wheel.
“We are committed to reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured while travelling on our roads by 50% by 2025 and we have a long-term ambition for zero harm. To achieve that we need to tackle the unsafe driving behaviour that we sadly still encounter.
“Through this month of action we want to encourage motorists to think about their driving and to adopt safer behaviours.
“Those who continue to pose a risk should be aware that we are working with our police partners to make sure they are spotted and prevented from causing serious harm to themselves or others.”
In addition to the HGV cab patrols, Traffic Officers, road safety partnerships and TyreSafe will be taking part in the month of action will be present at motorway services offering advice to drivers and carrying out tyre and vehicle checks.
Sergeant Matt Picton, from the North West Commercial Vehicle unit, said:
“This operation highlights the number of drivers that are willing to risk their lives and that of others.
“Having a driving licence comes with great responsibility and those that abuse that will be dealt with accordingly.
“Once again, this operation shows the blatant disregard of some drivers who choose to ignore the rules of the road and we will not tolerate those who do.
“Using a mobile phone, no seat belt, speeding, poor mechanical condition, breach of drivers’ hours, over loaded etc are all things that can be eradicated from our roads if people pay just stop and think before they act.
“We are committed to making all roads safer and we will continue to enforce road traffic legislation daily and target those who risk the most harm to the public who just want to go about their daily business without fear of injury or death.
“Far too many people are seriously injured or killed on Britain’s roads and we will continue our work to reduce that number.”
Sergeant Ryan Burt, of West Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Unit, said:
“By having an officer observing and filming from inside a HGV cab, we can see what lorry drivers are doing, as well as other drivers.
“We are involved in regular activity throughout the year and repeatedly see drivers using their mobile phones or in other ways not being in proper control of their vehicle.
“A driver not having their full attention on the road can have devastating repercussions, and when a heavy goods vehicle is involved, this can be even more catastrophic.
“We need everyone to think about their own behaviour, make sure they drive at an appropriate speed and make sure their vehicle is in good working order. If drivers are not maintaining their vehicles or driving in an unsafe way then we will take action to keep both the driver and other road users safe.”
October is also TyreSafe’s tyre safety month, prompting drivers to check the condition of their tyres and air pressure ahead of any journey.
Stuart Lovatt, TyreSafe Chair, said:
“Activities such as Operation Pennine are a great opportunity for direct engagement with road users. Many are guilty of taking their safety on the roads for granted and don’t consider the potential risks they expose themselves to unnecessarily by driving with vehicle defects.
“TyreSafe is all too aware that includes pre-journey tyre checks. When it comes to tyres, we encourage all road users to ACT – check Air pressure, Condition and Tread depth.”
Steve Brougham, DVSA Enforcement Delivery Manager, said:
“DVSA is pleased to be working in partnership on Operation Pennine to respond to this kind of activity and protect road users from unsafe vehicles and drivers.
“The vast majority of operators do operate safely on the roads. But there are some irresponsible operators, businesses and drivers who put the lives of themselves and other road users at considerable risk using unroadworthy vehicles.
“Through this month of action, we will also educate and inform them about their responsibilities and make the roads a safer place to be.”