Lorry drivers watching DVDs and boiling kettles among 4,000 caught by unmarked HGV cab.
Shocking footage released by Highways England shows drivers watching DVDs, reading books, and even boiling a dashboard kettle.
One driver in Kent was watching a DVD, while in Hampshire three from the same company were caught using their phones during a week, one of them watching YouTube.
In Surrey, another driver was calling his new girlfriend because “our song came on”, while in Hampshire one driver found his book such a gripping reach he kept going while driving on the M271.
One thirsty driver was boiling the kettle on his lorry dashboard in Surrey, where another driver was so keen for fresh breath he almost took out a police motorcycle while opening a box of toothpaste and squirting it on his toothbrush.
Another driver in the area was using two phones while driving, one in each hand. A similarly reckless driver was using an iPad in one hand and texting in another while on the move.
One driver was much more concerned about their water safety than road safety, with both hands off the wheel watching a video of how to rescue someone from a kayak while on their way to their kayak assessment.
The offenders were among more than 4,000 dangerous drivers on England’s roads caught by a single unmarked HGV cab over the past two years.
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 5 years and 521 suffering a serious injury.
Richard Leonard, Highways England’s Head of Road Safety, said:
“The HGV cab, which is funded by Highways England, has been patrolling motorways and major A roads over the past couple of years with the aim of improving road safety.
“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.
“It’s shocking that around two thirds of the drivers that were stopped were using their phones when the statistics show that mobile phone use contributes to two deaths every month on the roads.
“The footage of the driver with his foot up on the dashboard is particularly alarming, and I dread to think what would have happened if he had needed to brake suddenly. We will continue to use the cab to tackle deaths and serious injuries and to encourage people to improve how they drive.”
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.
“Driving whilst distracted is completely unacceptable and police are also making use of the tougher new penalties to stop this dangerous behaviour by ensuring that offenders face the full weight of law.
“People have to think about the consequences of their actions – a moment’s distraction can change innocent lives. It is never a risk worth taking.”
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.
Nearly two thirds of the drivers who were stopped were illegally using a mobile phone while driving, putting themselves and others at risk.
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
- Speeding – 249
A new THINK! road safety video was also launched last month, directed by the team behind the video for Pharrell Williams’s hit song Happy, to highlight the dangers of using your phone while driving. More details about the law on mobile phone use are available at www.gov.uk/using-mobile-phones-when-driving-the-law.
It uses innovative filming, is shot in the style of a music video with an edgy soundtrack from celebrated musician Aphex Twin, and includes numerous pink kittens to highlight how much drivers miss if they are distracted by looking at their handheld phone. The video is available to watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmcbxgBZbr0&feature=youtu.be.
Earlier this year, the government doubled the penalty for drivers caught using their phones at the wheel. Motorists now receive 6 points on their licence and a £200 fine – up from the previous 3 points and £100 fine.