Millions of motorists could be at risk of prosecution after police have started using unmarked lorries to catch people who are deemed to be driving irresponsibly.
Undercover traffic police will drive the trucks, which are equipped with secret hidden cameras, to keep an eye out for offenders who can’t usually be seen when driving at ground level.
462 drivers already caught
It’s expected that thousands could be prosecuted when police forces start rolling out the scheme to more motorways and A-roads after a three-month trial, which led to 462 drivers getting caught.
As well as the undercover lorry drivers, a support team of two police motorcyclists will be in constant touch with the lorries to instantly pounce on offending drivers and to gather evidence.
Offences to be targeted include texting or using phones while behind the wheel, speeding, drink driving and failing to wear a seatbelt, while hogging the middle lane will also land drivers in hot water.
According to police, punishment for drivers caught by the unmarked trucks will range from ‘words of advice’ to driver education courses, fixed penalty notices or summons to court.
The decision follows a trial period last year in five areas of the UK, while the new scheme will cover all of the main motorways and roads in England, with an aim to catch those not spotted by conventional cameras.
While law enforcement officials have explicitly said that the move is to keep the roads safe and not to generate revenue, some are still sceptical of the viability of the new measures.
Some still sceptical
Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman said that rolling the scheme out nationwide following the three-month trial was a waste of money, and that resources could be better spent elsewhere.
He added: “I think they should principally confine themselves to lorry drivers rather than misdemeanours in cars. We don’t need the expense of an HGV to look down on cars – a small 4×4 would do it.”
Using hand-held devices while driving has been illegal for more than a decade and can warrant fines of up to £1,000. However, figures have shown that the number of accidents with phones as contributing factors has soared by 21 per cent in just three years.
A statement from the Highways Agency said: “The unit enables the police to observe and record poor and dangerous driving behaviour using a video camera. The pilot was very successful at identifying unsafe driving behaviour.
“The aim of extending the project to a national initiative is not revenue generation but to improve driver behaviour and hence safety on the motorway network.”
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