A pioneering initiative to clamp down on reckless drivers who use mobile phones at the wheel has been launched (Monday 17 Sept) by West Midlands Police.

The aptly named ‘Operation Top Deck’, which is a joint project with National Express and Transport for West Midlands and the force’s Road Harm Reduction Team — sees plain clothes officers equipped with video cameras peering down at passing motorists on the lookout for distracted drivers.

PC Dave Ward is the driver of the bus & co organiser of OpTopDeck

Information is radioed to police bikers who divert offenders to a designated site where they are given an educational input, including a hard-hitting, virtual reality video highlighting the potentially devastating consequences of using a phone while driving and also face the prospect of a hefty fine plus six points on their licence.

It’s the first operation of its kind in the UK and follows other initiatives introduced by the unit – including Operation Close Pass, targeting motorists who endanger cyclists – which have been embraced by police forces across the country.

The buses used, which provide a perfect vantage point into cars and other vehicles, are ‘borrowed’ from National Express and look like any other regular bus in service — however, they are driven by Safer Travel officers who are qualified bus drivers and the passengers will be police officers or PSCO’s equipped with video cameras.

Commuters can help too.

Bus passengers can also support Op Top Deck – by supplying their own video evidence of offending drivers via a dedicated self-reporting site on the West Midlands Police website.

PC Mark Hodson said: “Using mobile phones while driving is proven to be as dangerous as drink driving; it can devastate lives and people need to understand this isn’t acceptable.

“We will look at particular circumstances but there will also be some drivers, ones who’ve been particularly reckless, who we will charged and take to court.”

Woman prosecuted for driving whilst eating from a bowl of cereal in her lap.

Op Top Deck was launched to coincide with National Mobile Phone Week (17-21 Sept) which sees traffic officers in police forces across the country targeting dodgy drivers — and in just a few hours on the A34 Birmingham Road near the Scott Arms pub, 45 motorists using phones behind the wheel were caught.

  • Thirteen of them – ones who were using devices in stationary traffic – were given an on-the-spot education input on the dangers. (Their details were taken and they face prosecution should they be caught a second time.)
  • The rest face the prospect of a £200 fine and six licence points adding to their licence.
  • One man was caught using his phone while on route to a speed awareness course.
  • A woman was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention after officers found her eating from a bowl of cereal in her lap.
  • A disqualified driver was also pulled over and arrested.

PC Hodson, said: “The launch run was really successful – and have shown that despite all the warnings and public safety messages there are still drivers who can’t resist picking up their phone at the wheel.

“Most offenders were reading or sending text messages…being online and staying in touch seem to get in the way of people’s driving. It’s simply not worth the risk of causing a collision or potentially being banned from the roads.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, a total of 990 people were killed or seriously injured on roads in the West Midlands – during the same period 1,251 drivers were prosecuted for using phones at the wheel.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, who brought in the original ban on driving while on a mobile phone back in 2003 as a Transport Minister, added: “The reason the ban was introduced was to keep the public safe.

“Motorists who use their mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to crash. This campaign is about saving lives.

 

 

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