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The driver pictured with a mobile phone in each hand while travelling up the M4

Two week operation launched to clamp down on reckless driving on the M5

TRAVELLING along the M4 earlier this year, a HGV driver can be seen holding two mobile phones, one to each ear, in startling video footage taken by a police officer.

But what he didn’t realise was the vehicle travelling alongside was an unmarked National Highways ‘HGV cab’ – and there were two police officers inside.

The footage, taken between junctions 18 and 17 by Avon and Somerset police, captures one of over 21,000 offences recorded by officers in the Operation Tramline HGV cabs since the national safety initiative was launched by National Highways, formerly Highways England.

The National Highways HGV cabs are now being used as part of a multi-agency fortnight of action along the M4 and M5, taking place from today until Sunday, September 26, which aims to reduce the number of incidents on the motorways and highlight the risks of dangerous driving.

Avon and Somerset police have used the HGV cab over four weeks this year, and recorded the following offences in that time:

  • 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



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Operation Peninsula

Under the banner of Operation Peninsula, the campaign will be operating along the M4 between junctions 14 and 18, and the M5 from junction 8 to junction 31.

National Highways deals with countless incidents on the M5 and M4 motorways, and in the latest figures, the company attended a large number of traffic collisions – 526 on the M4 and 821 on the M5 in 2019.

Since the launch of Operation Tramline in 2015, more than 21,600 offences have been recorded on the National Highways motorway network. The most common offences have included:

Using a mobile phone – 6,073

Not wearing a seatbelt – 6,253

Not in proper control of vehicle – 1,501

Speeding – 1,199

In total, 19,564 vehicles have been stopped in Operation Tramline between July 2015 and April 2021. In that time, a number of bizarre and dangerous behaviours have been spotted:

  • A driver steering a lorry with his knees while eating lunch on his lap and using a phone in the East Midlands
  • In West Mercia, a driver eating lasagne with a knife and fork while driving along a motorway
  • An HGV driver boiling a kettle on the dashboard and another eating pickled gherkins from a jar with his elbows on the steering wheel in Surrey

Unnecessary risks

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 £200 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.

Offering advice

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 DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) at various locations along the M5 and M4.

Four regional forces are taking part in Operation Peninsula – Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall – and the Devon and Somerset Fire Service will also be playing a part during the road safety fortnight.

At Taunton Deane Services on Friday, September 17, Avon and Somerset police will also be joining forces with Somerset County Council, the DVSA, Devon and Somerset Fire Service and National Highways at a ‘Fit for the Road’ event.



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