Using a bespoke lorry cab, they spent five days filming drivers on South Yorkshire’s motorways for Operation Ophelia. Lorry and car drivers were stopped for 63 offences, of which 36 were using a mobile phone at the wheel.
DC Pete Burke, who led the operation, said: “We saw some very scary behaviour by drivers of all kinds of vehicles. Officers filmed one man using his mobile phone when he was driving a petrol tanker. Just think of the devastation if that vehicle had been involved in a collision or had crashed.
“Another lorry driver was using his laptop computer as a satellite navigation system and yet another was caught with paperwork in one hand while using his other hand to input details into his sat nav. He was steering the very large vehicle with his elbows.
“This kind of behaviour is just not acceptable. It is utter madness because no phone call is worth risking a life for. Unfortunately, however, some drivers either appear not to see the potential dangers or they choose to ignore them. All drivers need to get into the habit of switching off their phones when they get into their vehicles as it means they will not be tempted to make or receive calls or texts.”
The bespoke cab gave officers a better view of both lorries and other large vehicles that cannot be normally observed from a standard patrol car, and offered a higher vantage point to look down into smaller vehicles.
On top of the mobile phone offences, eight drivers were stopped for not wearing a seat belt. The remaining offences included drivers having no insurance, speeding, having defects to their lorries or driving over their allotted hours. Two drivers were fined for driving or parking on the hard shoulder; two for not having paid the HGV levy and a further two vehicles were taken off the road and confiscated for having no road tax.
The operation was funded by the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership. Education manager Joanne Wehrle said the operation showed the safety messages must continue.
“The ‘fatal four’ messages are still key for drivers of all vehicles on the road. Don’t speed, don’t drive when under the influence of drink or drugs, always ensure seat belts are worn by everyone within the vehicle and never use a mobile phone while at the wheel.
“Operations such as this show that some messages are getting through to the public. The majority of drivers and passengers do wear seatbelts. But obviously other messages are not being heeded.
“What drivers need to realise is that the time it takes to write a 10-word text is probably only about 20 seconds. But if you are travelling at 70mph you will travel more than 600 metres in that time. That’s a long way to have your attention taken away from the road. If any hazards or emergency situations presented within this time, a driver would be less prepared to deal with the consequences safely.”