Police in ‘decoy’ HGV on M5 in Somerset in dangerous driving clampdown

ROGUE motorists using the motorway in Avon and Somerset are being warned police could be watching them from an unmarked HGV cab. The National Highways vehicles are being used as part of a multi-agency fortnight of action on the M4 and M5 starting on Monday (September 13) and running until September 26. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the number of incidents on the motorway and highlight the risks of dangerous driving.

Previously this year, police pulled over an HGV driver spotted holding two mobile phones, one to each ear. What he didn't realised was that the vehicle travelling alongside him was an unmarked National Highways HGV cab - with two police officers inside. During the four weeks that Avon and Somerset Police have used the HGV cab this year, the following offences have been recorded:

  • 186 driving without a seat belt;
  • 26 driving while using a mobile phone at the wheel;
  • 17 Traffic Offence Reports for speeding;
  • 129 other offences, including insecure loads and driving without due care and attention.

Under the banner of Operation Peninsula, this month's two-week campaign will be operating along the M4 between junctions 14 and 18, and the M5 from junction 8 to junction 31.

Nicholas Reed, National Highways' road safety lead for the South West, said: "The HGV cabs are an important part of our commitment to tackling unsafe driving and those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and that of others on the road. "The number of people found using their mobile phone while driving is quite alarming. "You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone and, if caught, face a GBP200 fine and six points on your licence.

"Through this fortnight of action on the M5 and M4 we want to make all of our roads safer by raising awareness and encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour." From their elevated viewpoint in the unmarked HGV cabs, police officers are able to spot people driving dangerously - whatever vehicle they may be in. Consequences for the drivers range from warnings to fixed penalty notices, court summons or even arrest.

In addition to the operational patrols, partners taking part in Operation Peninsula will be present at motorway services along the M5 and M4, offering advice to drivers such as what to do in a breakdown and ensuring load safety. National Highways' traffic officers will be providing free tyre checks and safety tips, and vehicle checks will also be carried out by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency at various locations along the M5 and M4. At Taunton Deane Services next Friday (September 17), Avon and Somerset Police will also be joining forces with Somerset County Council, the DVSA, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and National Highways at a 'Fit for the Road' event.

Caroline Hicks, the DVSA's head of regulatory services and transformation, said: "We will be conducting our vital enforcement work during this operation across the South West, as we do throughout the year, ensuring commercial vehicles are both roadworthy and safe. "We are determined to protect the public from dangerous drivers and vehicles on UK roads and ensure that non-compliance, whether intentional or not, does not endanger the public. "We are delighted to be a part of this key road safety exercise alongside our partners."

Nina Day, from the Health and Safety Executive's transport sector, said: "Employers must ensure that drivers, other workers, and members of the public are kept safe when vehicles are used for work. "There are legal requirements for employers to have robust procedures in place to manage vehicle safety, including ensuring suitable procedures are in place, providing workers with appropriate training and equipment, maintaining equipment and vehicles, and supporting drivers when they raise concerns. "HSE works closely with our partner agencies to help vehicle operators and load consignors understand their legal responsibilities."

: Watch video of police catching lorry driver using two phones at the wheel.