More than 100 dangerous drivers in the North-East have been spotted by an unmarked HGV supercab in the past year in a bid to improve safety on the region’s high-speed roads.
The vehicle is one of three supercabs, funded by Highways England, which have travelled thousands of miles since they first took to the road a year ago.
Police officers inside the vehicles have recorded over 3,500 offences, including 105 offences in our region.
The most common offences included:
Not wearing a seatbelt – 76
Using a mobile phone – 15
Not being in proper control of a vehicle – 8
Police officers in the North-East issued 79 penalty charge notices and filed 22 traffic offence reports – usually requiring drivers to attend a driver education course.
There were also three prosecutions for more serious offences.
Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “Hundreds of thousands of drivers use our roads every day and the vast majority are sensible behind the wheel but some are putting themselves and others at risk.
“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 they will encourage everyone to think about what more they could do to improve how they drive.”
The three Highways England supercabs patrol motorways and major A roads across England and have been used by 29 police forces over the past year, including Cleveland and Durham Police in the North East, in a safety initiative known as Operation Tramline.
They allow police officers to 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.
The supercabs have a derestricted speed limiter which means they can travel at speeds up to the national speed limit, and flashing lights have been installed for use by police forces in an emergency.
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.”
Other footage captured using the cabs in their first year included a lorry driver using his mobile phone to make a credit card payment as he travelled along the M40 near Leamington Spa. The trucker was seen holding his credit card in one hand and his phone in the other.
A van driver was also spotted with no hands on the wheel as he used one hand to change gear and the other to hold his mobile phone. The incident happened as he travelled along the A38 near Derby, even though he pulled into a service station to stop just a few seconds later.
Tom Cotton, Road Haulage Association’s head of licencing and infrastructure policy, said: “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.”
Around one in three of the drivers filmed breaking the law by the supercabs had someone in their vehicle not wearing a seatbelt, despite statistics showing that one in four people killed in car crashes in 2017 were not wearing seatbelts.
Drivers illegally using a mobile phone while driving was the second most common offence captured by the cabs, with the latest figures showing that mobile phone use is a factor in one death on the roads every 12 days.