Unmarked ‘supercab’ spots 350 South-East drivers breaking the law

More than 350 drivers using mobile phones in the South East have been spotted by an unmarked HGV supercab in the past year in a bid to improve safety on the region’s high-speed roads.

The supercabs
The supercabs

The vehicle is one of three supercabs, funded by Highways England, which have travelled thousands of miles since they first took to the road 12 months ago.

Police officers inside the vehicles have recorded over 3,500 offences, including a total of over 900 offences in the South-East.

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Colin Evans, Regional Safety Coordinator in the South East, at Highways England, said: “Hundreds of thousands of drivers use our roads every day and the vast majority are sensible behind the wheel but some are putting themselves and others at risk.

“We introduced the three new HGV supercabs last year to help keep the roads safe and tackle dangerous driving by people who have either got into bad habits or are simply ignoring the law.

“The cabs have helped to identify over 3,000 unsafe drivers over the past year, and we hope they will encourage everyone to think about what more they could do to improve how they drive.”

The three Highways England supercabs patrol motorways and major A roads across England, and have been used by police forces over the past year including in the South-East.

They allow police officers to film evidence of unsafe driving behaviour by pulling up alongside vehicles, and drivers are then pulled over by police cars following a short distance behind.

The supercabs have a derestricted speed limiter which means they can travel at speeds up to the national speed limit, and flashing lights have been installed for use by police forces in an emergency.

Drivers illegally using a mobile phone while driving was the most common offence in the South-East, captured by the cabs, with the latest figures showing that mobile phone use is a factor in one death on the roads every 12 days.

The most common offences in the South-East included:

- using mobile phone – 367

- not in proper control of vehicle – 143

- not wearing seatbelt – 123

- speeding – 54

Police officers in the region issued 93 penalty charge notices and filed 134 traffic offence reports – usually requiring drivers to attend a driver education course. There were also prosecutions for more serious offences.

Nationally, other footage captured using the cabs in their first year included a van driver who was spotted with no hands on the wheel as he used one hand to change gear and the other to hold his mobile phone. The incident happened as he travelled along the A38 near Derby, even though he pulled into a service station to stop just a few seconds later.

The driver of a pick-up truck was also filmed without his hands on the wheel as he travelled along the M60 near Eccles in Greater Manchester. The footage shows the driver with both hands on his phone as he writes a text message.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: “Operation Tramline is a successful collaboration between the police and Highways England.

“We remain committed to tackling those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and the safety of others on our roads by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. The consequences of these actions are often devastating.

“We will continue to work alongside Highways England on Operation Tramline and will prosecute drivers who ignore the risks.”