Police are using new methods to spot HGV drivers who are illegally using mobile phones at the wheel, by recruiting ‘community spotters’ as well as ‘spy cabs’ driven by police officers.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has announced that a scheme using members of the public to target repeat offenders has been piloted this November as part of a highly publicised week-long crackdown.
Police are also using unmarked lorries and vans, as well as helmet cameras in an attempt to reduce the use of handheld phones at the wheel. Back in May, a similar week of action against motorists using their phones resulted in 2,323 offences being recorded, according to NPCC figures.
Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, the NPCC roads policing lead, said: "Tackling mobile phone use by drivers requires police enforcement using new technology and tactics to maximise the numbers of people we can stop, combined with strong effective penalties and creative national campaigns to make driving distracted as socially unacceptable as drink-driving."
According to a survey carried out by the RAC, 31 per cent of drivers admit using a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with eight per cent in 2014.
The police’s latest focus on HGV drivers who flout the laws follows the successful prosecution last month of lorry driver, Tomasz Kroker, who killed a mother and three children when his vehicle ploughed into their stationary car at 50 mph because he had been scrolling through music on his mobile phone.
Just an hour before the fatal crash, Kroker had signed a declaration to his employer promising he would not use his phone at the wheel.
However, the court heard that once out on the road, Kroker became so distracted by his phone that he barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre. His cab’s dash-cam showed him spending around 45 seconds looking at his phone as he scrolled through music, only occasionally glancing up and unaware that the traffic ahead had come to a stop.
Handing down a 10 year jail sentence, Judge Maura McGowan said Kroker’s attention had been so poor that he "might as well have had his eyes closed".
Jeremy Sirrell, a Partner and motoring offences specialist, with Palmers said: “Currently, motorists caught using their phones whilst driving receive a fixed penalty notice of £100, and three points on their licence. However, the penalties are set to be doubled under Government plans which are due to come into force next year. This means that, not only will those caught receive a £200 penalty, if they are caught twice and accrue 12 points they will automatically appear in court and face a fine of up to £1,000 and a driving disqualification of at least six months.”
Jeremy added: “Business owners who employ commercial drivers need to be aware that if a member of their team compromises the safety of others, there are considerable consequences for all concerned. Employers could potentially have legal liability if insufficient steps have been taken to demonstrate duty of care.”
To find out how Palmers can help keep you and your drivers safe behind the wheel, please contact us.