Motorists who put their own and other lives at risk by using a mobile phone at the wheel have been targeted by motorway police.
Officers, from the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG), have been using an unmarked HGV cab to catch distracted drivers on the M5, M6 and M42.
A three week operation was launched on Monday 7th November and coincided with national mobile phone enforcement week which ran from last Monday (14/11) until Sunday (20/11).
In the first two weeks of the operation 233 people were fined for using a mobile phone while driving and 21 other people were reported for other traffic offences, including someone watching a Youtube clip.
The CMPG – an alliance between West Midlands, Staffordshire and West Mercia police forces – is leading the crackdown alongside Highways England to increase safety on major routes in the region.
The elevated, plain white cab allows officers to observe unsuspecting lorry drivers and look down on motorists in cars or other light vehicles to see if they are committing an offence. An officer alongside the driver is able to spot offenders and record footage for evidence.
The cab is joined on the road by a patrol car and an unmarked vehicle which can pull over anyone breaking the law – with those caught facing fines, penalty points or having to attend an education awareness course.
Studies have found driver reaction times when using a mobile phone are 30 per cent slower than someone who is just above the drink drive limit; and 50 per cent below normal driving conditions.
Research also indicates that drivers using mobile phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash involving damage to property or serious injury.
Inspector Sion Hathaway, from CMPG, said: “Using a mobile phone at the wheel puts yourself and others at danger. Being distracted – even for a brief moment – can lead to collisions and have devastating consequences.
“It could be a family member in your vehicle or an innocent fellow motorist who could be seriously injured or killed as a result of your actions.
“It is unacceptable to check your phone for messages, texts or social media while driving even in slow moving traffic. It only takes a second to jeopardise your own and others’ safety with potential life-changing repercussions.”
A recent RAC report suggests the number of motorists who illegally use mobile phones while at the wheel is rising.
Of 1,714 motorists surveyed, 31 per cent of motorists admitted using a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with eight per cent in 2014.
The number of drivers who said they sent a message or posted on social media rose from seven to 19 per cent. The government is looking at proposals to increase fines and penalty points for motorists caught using their mobile phones from next year.