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Motor Mouth articles 2011

Police crackdown pays off big time

A MAN was driving along a motorway using a laptop, writing down answers to a radio quiz programme and drinking coffee all at the same time.

Thankfully this despicable cross between a contortionist and a fruitcake was spotted by police and will soon be having to explain himself to a court.

He is one of 65 drivers being prosecuted following a five-day blitz by Hampshire Constabulary’s roads policing unit targeting motorists driving while using mobile phones or engaged in other dangerous distractions.

In a crackdown called Operation Tramline, police used two marked cars, one motorcycle and a specially hired unmarked Scania lorry cab to patrol the length of the M27 and M3 in Hampshire.

An HGV-qualified officer drove the truck while an observer recorded and videoed any offences committed – with the cab giving the police the great advantage of a high viewing platform.

They also nicked another driver eating a pear with a knife, as well as many others using mobile phones while at the wheel.

The lorry was utilised following information from Stammtisch, the community beat ‘surgeries’ for road users run every month by the traffic police at motorway service areas. They provide a chance for road users, especially lorry drivers, to speak to police, ask questions and share information or concerns.

Sergeant Paul Diamond, who led the operation, said: “We have learned from these events that professional commercial vehicle drivers are concerned about the number of motorists that they see who are distracted or using mobile phones while driving.

“Under normal circumstances, it is difficult for police to observe and prosecute these offences due to the height of lorry cabs. Operation Tramline was delivered as a direct result of these concerns being reported to us.”

A total of 84 vehicles were stopped due to offences being witnessed, more than half involving commercial vehicles. A total of 39 drivers are being prosecuted for using their mobiles while driving, and another 26 for not being in proper control of their vehicle because of other distractions.

In the wake of recent publicity generated by drivers being jailed for causing fatal accidents due to using mobiles, it seems amazing that people are still doing it. It is to be hoped that the magistrates support the police by taking a tough stance because a law is worthless if it’s not properly enforced.

Sergeant Diamond added: “We received significant vocal support from drivers during the week and were encouraged by the reaction of the road-using community. This should send a very loud message out to motorists: should you crash while driving distracted or on your phone, causing death by careless driving is punishable by 14 years in prison.”

Police are considering joint operations between neighbouring forces to run similar operations elsewhere. Zero tolerance, I say.

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