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Police 'spy' truck tackles phones at wheel

By Richard Guttridge | Staffordshire | Crime | Published:

Police in Staffordshire have used an unmarked lorry to try to catch drivers using phones at the wheel - and warned dangerous drivers they were being watched.

The unmarked lorry is fitted with flashing lights for use in an emergency

Chiefs have unveiled their latest weapon to try to cut use of phones on the roads. Officers were out on the M6 in an unmarked HGV spying on unsuspecting motorists.

The week-long operation, which started on Monday, aimed to catch drivers breaking the law and spread the message about the dangers of using the phone at the wheel.

It has been illegal since 2003 and could land drivers with six penalty points and a £200 fine but many are still using their phones while driving. It follows a similar campaign by West Midlands Police this week using a double-decker bus to watch drivers, while there have been other safety campaigns across the country.

Sergeant Rob Gilligan, from the Central Motorway Policing Group (CMPG), said: “We want drivers to understand just how dangerous and irresponsible looking at your phone can be. There are no excuses – either pull over in a safe location or ignore your phone until you arrive at your location.

“The high-up position in the cab helps officers to see and record motorists breaking the law, which they may not have been able to detect at a lower level. So far drivers have been spotted using their phone, texting, reading and even preparing food.

“We want to remind motorists to always drive safely, and hope this campaign will help to reduce the number of accidents attributed to mobile phone use and being distracted at the wheel.”

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The lorry is fitted with flashing lights for use in an emergency and cameras to capture driving offences. It also has a de-restricted speed limiter, meaning it can reach up to the national speed limit if required for policing purposes.

County councillor Bryan Jones, a former police inspector, welcomed the move which he said could help save lives.

He said: "I recognise the dangers caused by people using mobile phones at the wheel. Anything that acts as a deterrent has to be a good thing. This is a great idea and I fully support the police in taking this action.

Councillor Jones dismissed suggestions the operation could be viewed as sneaky and said: "At the end of the day if people don't break the law they have got nothing to fear. It is dangerous and we know it causes deaths.

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"I have seen people going down the motorway swerving from lane to lane. If it reduces deaths on the road I am certainly all for it."

The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police was forced to defend his force's operation using a double-decker bus in Great Barr following claims it was a waste of resources.

Forty-five drivers were caught using their phones in the first three hours of the bus being out on the region’s roads this week – with one woman spotted eating cereal at the wheel.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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