Looking down on distracted drivers – Op Tramline returns to Surrey and Sussex
Main article content
For 9 days across September and October, Surrey and Sussex’s Roads Policing Unit (RPU) took to the roads once again to carry out a special operation using an HGV cab to look down on distracted drivers.
Whilst one officer sits behind the wheel of the HGV, another watches out for dangerous or distracted driving and records footage of incidents giving cause for concern.
The ‘observer’ then relays information to a further police vehicle travelling behind, which intercepts and indicates to the driver to pull over. The officers were looking to identify and prevent offences as part of the operation to reduce collisions and improve road safety, journey times, and the reliability of our motorways and major roads.
Across both counties a total of 305 offences were dealt with, committed by 285 drivers on routes including the A3, M3, A23, M25 and A27. Offences included not being in proper control of a vehicle, driving on the hard shoulder, due care and seatbelt offences, amongst many others. Penalties and interventions included 104 words of advice, 155 Traffic Offence Reports and 23 Fixed Penalty Notices.
The stealthy, unmarked HGV cab, loaned to forces by Highways England, is used to target distracted drivers and gives officers the ideal view of what’s going on inside cars, from above. Six of our Roads Policing Unit officers have recently acquired their HGV licence, enabling the joint department to conduct this undercover operation more efficiently and regularly.
Sergeant Kellie-Anne Harris, of the newly formed Commercial Vehicle Unit, said: “The higher vantage point the HGV cab gives us is incredibly useful when it comes to looking down at what drivers are up to in their vehicles which might otherwise be obscured at ground level. It also allows us to see directly into other HGV or large vehicle cabs which would just not be possible with other vehicles in our fleet.
“Along with 65 uses of a mobile phone, 43 seatbelt offences and 25 speed offences, we saw some truly staggering things like someone using their elbows to steer, a man watching music videos and a woman doing her make up in lane 4 of the M25.
“As seen in the photos below, one gentleman was using his dashboard as his filing system and another driver was transporting DIY equipment unsafely along the M25. The drivers were given words of advice and rectified their mistakes before being allowed to continue their journeys.”
86 offences of not being in proper control of a vehicle were also reported; the majority of which involved drivers interacting with the satnav or maps function on a mobile telephone.
Chief Inspector Michael Hodder, head of the joint Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit, said: “Drivers shouldn’t become complacent or take risks purely because they can’t see a marked police car on our roads or they think we can’t see what’s happening inside their vehicle. Using unmarked vehicles including the Highways England HGV cab allows us to catch those putting not only their own lives at risk, but also those around them.”
Operation Tramline will be carried out on the roads in the future as Surrey Police and Sussex Police continue to tackle dangerous and anti-social driving habits. We target offenders as part of routine roads policing all year round; in addition to undertaking dedicated campaigns and operations.