Thousands of miles covered and hundreds of vehicles stopped as Op Tramline targets distracted drivers
Traffic along thousands of miles of motorway and major roads in Surrey was under scrutiny during a recent operation to tackle bad driving habits.
Officers from the Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit (RPU) were manning an unmarked HGV cab which was driven around the roads network as part of Operation Tramline. The initiative is part of a national project, supported by Highways England which provides the cab. The aim is to reduce collisions, cut the number of incidents and to improve safety, journey time and reliability on motorways and major roads.
In the latest activity the RPU concentrated its work on the M25, M23 and A3 and stopped 572 vehicles during the last couple of weeks in January. Whilst one officer was behind the wheel of the HGV, another was in the passenger seat observing the behaviour of drivers as it passed vehicles. The officer watching out for dangerous or distracting driving behaviours recorded footage of incidents giving cause for concern.
The ‘spotter’ would then relay information about specific distraction offences seen to a further police vehicle travelling behind which would intercept and indicate to the driver observed to pull over. At any one time up to five police cars and four police motorbikes were out on the carriageways in readiness to deal appropriately with motorists.
The intense inspection included looking into cars and lorries being driven for both commercial and personal use. The height of the tractor unit used as a viewing platform provided the opportunity for inappropriate driving behaviour to be seen which may otherwise go unnoticed from standard patrol vehicles.
Sergeant Sharon Kingston of Surrey RPU said:
“Working together with Highways England provides resilience and a cost effective way to work towards our joint aim to provide a safe and reliable road transport system for all drivers. As a result we’re able to target some of the offences which can cause casualties on the county’s roads – the ‘fatal 4’ as they are named, include drink/drug driving, using a handheld mobile phone, speeding and seat belt offences.”
One woman was stopped on the M23 when she was seen holding an iPad in her left hand and texting with a phone in her right hand. She was dealt with by means of a Traffic Offence Report (TOR) for driving without due care and attention.
In another example a driver who was stopped for using his mobile phone asked if officers could ‘just tell him off’ as he already had nine points on his licence. He also had a letter he was due to reply to in relation to another offence. The man was reported directly to court.
There were 309 TORs issued during the campaign for a variety of offences but as Sgt Kingston explained this figure made up just some of the issues addressed:
“It was a very successful operation with more than 600 interventions made and reasons for stopping vehicles varying from speeding, not wearing a seat belt to not being in proper control and using a hand held mobile phone. This should be a reminder to all motorists that they should always drive appropriately, not just when they see a marked police car, as there may well be an officer in an unexpected vehicle driving alongside them.
“In the latest operation we have had two reports of drivers being charged with not being in control of their vehicle because they were engaged in sexual acts. One incident happened on the A3 when a van driver was seen to be driving whilst distracted and not in proper control of his vehicle on the southbound carriageway at Guildford. Our officers established that the driver and his female passenger were engaged in a sexual act.
“The driver was issued with a TOR for driving without due care and attention. Any previous driving offences had to be taken into account and he would have been issued with three points and a £100 fine or would have to attend a driver education course.”
John Henderson, Highways England, said:
“Safety is our top priority and I am pleased that our HGV cab has been so useful in helping the police to identify unsafe behaviour on the motorways and major A roads. It provides an ideal viewing platform for police officers to identify dangerous behaviour that can be difficult to spot from standard police patrol vehicles – for example texting while driving. Highways England is committed to working collaboratively with the Police in Surrey to improve road safety in the region by influencing driver behaviour by this and other initiatives.”
Operation Tramline will be carried out on the roads in the future as Surrey Police continues to tackle dangerous and anti-social driving habits.