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New footage has been released today of a lorry driver on his mobile phone swerving in and out of motorway lanes before almost colliding with an unmarked HGV used by Highways England and the police to catch dangerous motorists.
The near crash was caught on camera on the M40 by operators in a ‘supercab’ – a plain white HGV that patrols England’s motorways network to covertly catch neglectful and careless drivers.
Highways England says its supercabs have captured clips that have led to more than 21,600 offences being handed out since their unmarked HGVs been on patrol since 2015 – and today announced they will be used on the M6 in a week-long stint to catch more dangerous drivers ahead of the bank holiday weekend.
The hair-raising video captures the lorry driver veering on and off the M40 motorway hard shoulder before swerving from the left-hand lane to the middle lane where the supercab is attempting to pull alongside.
The unwitting lorry driver narrowly avoiding a collision with the unmarked HGV before raising his hand in apology – not realising he is being filmed by the police officer in the passenger seat as part of an operation to catch dangerous motorway antics.
The covert supercabs have been used on motorways for six years. The unsuspecting vehicles provide an elevated viewpoint to help spot dangerous driving.
Highways England said it was one of tens of thousands of cases it has captured using the vehicles as it announced a week-long campaign using the HGV starting today.
Most common offence types caught by Highways England supercabs
1. Using a mobile phone – 6,073
2. Not wearing a seatbelt – 6,253
3. Not in proper control of vehicle – 1,501
4. Speeding – 1,199
The cabs are being used in Operation Vertebrae, taking place along the M6 from 24 May to 30 May as traffic levels are set to peak ahead of the bank holiday weekend – especially with the predicted summer heat wave.
The police forces taking part in the M6 sting include Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Warwickshire, along with the Central Motorway Police Group and the North West Commercial Vehicle Unit.
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.
Using a mobile phone, not wearing a seatbelt, not being in proper control of the vehicle and speeding are among the most common offences spotted from the supercabs since 2015.
This is when they started to be used to patrol motorways and major A roads in an ongoing campaign called Operation Tramline.
Highways England currently has a fleet of unmarked supercabs.
Some of them are Mercedes-Benz Actros models and others DAF trucks – and all of them are painted white as to not raise suspicion among motorists.
Officers pull up alongside vehicles and capture unsafe driving behaviour on the cameras as evidence that can be used to prosecute guilty parties.
Police cars follow behind the HGV pull over the vehicle.
Motorists have been captured by supercab footage driving careless due to eating at the wheel, steering vehicles with their knees and even brushing their teeth.
Other incidents on the M40 included a lorry driver looking down and texting for more than 20 seconds.
When he eventually realises he’s being videoed, 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.
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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