Police roll out new weapon to tackle mobile phone use behind the wheel in Cambridgeshire

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A new weapon to stop drivers using mobile phones - or even cooking their dinner - behind the wheel has rolled out as police look to make Cambridgeshire's roads safer.

Traffic officers will be using an unmarked HGV lorry cab to raise them up above traffic - giving them a perfect view from above cars and into lorry cabs.

PC Keith Emerson and Sgt Ian Manley

PC Keith Emerson and Sgt Ian Manley

The lorry will be patrolling Cambridgeshire's roads throughout September looking for drivers who are distracted while at the wheel.

The Peterborough Telegraph joined officers on patrol in the new vehicle on Friday - and within just half an hour on the roads - mainly stuck in a traffic jam around Cambridgeshire police HQ - one driver was caught by lorry driver PC Keith Emerson using his phone. He was given words of advice in the jam, but avoided a ticket.

Sergeant Ian Manley from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit (BCH RPU) said: "We are mainly looking for mobile phone offences. Many drivers now know police are on the look out for people using phones, and hold them below the window line so we can not see them.

"From the lorry cab, we will have a great view of what is happening.

PC Emerson behind the wheel

PC Emerson behind the wheel

"We will also be able to see lorry drivers, and what they are doing - whether its using a phone, watching something on their iPad, or even, as we have seen in one instance, cooking sausages. We will also be able to see if they are wearing their seat belt."

While the lorry does have blue lights, it does not have a siren, and in the main will not be used to pull drivers over - however, unmarked cars and motorbikes will be working in the same area as the truck, and will be able to stop motorists.

Sgt Manley said: "Standard HGVs are limited to 56 mph - our vehicle is de-restricted, so we will be able to overtake other HGVs and see what is happening.

"Drivers do not expect police to be in a lorry, but the reaction tends to be positive.

A driver caught on his phone

A driver caught on his phone

"Using a mobile phone whilst driving is one of the Fatal Four causes of collisions. We need to educate the public that this behaviour is completely unacceptable. Using a phone behind the wheel not only puts your life at risk, but also endangers other road users around you.”

Last year in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, 2089 people were caught using a mobile phone while driving. Additionally, a recent poll has shown that 31 per cent of people in Cambridgeshire admitted to using a mobile phone to make a call, change music or text while driving.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite said: “Too many lives have been irreversibly changed as a result of people using mobile phones behind the wheel. Through this campaign, we can help reinforce the dangers involved and remind people that if you use a mobile phone while driving, you significantly increase your chances of being involved in a serious, even fatal collision.

“Together we need to continue doing everything we can to make using mobile phones while driving as socially unacceptable as drink or drug driving.”

Stephen Greenhill, Highways England Asset Development Manager for Cambridgeshire, said: “Safety is at the heart of what we do at Highways England, as we support the police in making our roads safer by ensuring road users drive legally and appropriately.

“We’re pleased to work with them and loan them our HGV cab so they can catch drivers who are breaking the law by looking at their phones, eating, reading, and the other activities that have been recorded. It can be difficult for police to see what HGV drivers are up to when they’re in their cars, so the HGV cab helps them to get a better view and ensure that they don’t get away with breaking the law while driving.”