The observer relays details of her vehicle and the offence to his colleagues in two unmarked police cars following behind. The truck pulls away in search of more distracted drivers while one of the teams directs her to follow them to Cobham services, where she can be dealt with safely.
Welcome to Highways England’s three-year road-safety initiative, launched in February. It has loaned three HGV cabs to 28 police forces covering the north, the Midlands and the south-east. They will patrol motorways and main trunk roads looking for drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel, a practice that is a factor in an average of two deaths on UK roads every month.
“For me, the tipping point was the crash on the A34 in 2016 when the driver of a truck, who moments before had been changing music tracks on his mobile phone, drove his vehicle into the back of a stationary car, killing all four of its occupants,” says Colin Evans, Highways England safety officer for the south-east.
“Enforcement is the police’s job, but they’re under pressure. Our spotter cabs will help them catch people who don’t understand that, in the hands of a distracted driver, a vehicle is a battering ram.”
During a two-year trial, one HGV cab was instrumental in spotting 4176 drivers in relation to 5039 offences. Just as importantly, publicity surrounding its deployment helped influence driver behaviour and spread the message that distracted driving kills.
It’s the turn of Surrey Police to use Highways England’s south-east- region spotter cab (it’s recently come from a two-week stint with Kent Police). As the team mills around it and the two unmarked intervention cars that will process offenders, as well as spot them, the squad commander announces that last week’s Surrey Police team dealt with 54 cars, 26 HGVs (half of them on foreign numberplates) and 16 vans on its section of the M25.