It was reported recently that a HGV driver was caught on camera in Yorkshire with his foot on the dashboard as he used his mobile telephone whilst driving despite recent changes upping some driving offence penalties to life imprisonment.
The motorist was spotted by Humberside Police as he was travelling from the M18 onto the M62 near Goole and was one of 4000 drivers caught in an illegal act by an unmarked HGV cab over the past 2 years.
Other offences recorded by the cab include a driver who was found to have sent 10 text message replies within the space of one hour, a man spotted steering with his knees whilst eating his lunch and using his phone and a driver in Surrey trying to put toothpaste on a toothbrush!
Richard Leonard, the head of road safety at Highways England said the footage of a driver with his feet up was particularly alarming and questioned what the consequences would have been in the event he had to break suddenly. He added:
“We will continue to use the cab to tackle deaths and serious injuries and to encourage people to improve how they drive.”
UK legislation defines dangerous driving as driving that falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and that it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
A person is also to be regarded as driving dangerously if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.
“Dangerous” refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property.
It is difficult to see how driving with your feet on the dashboard could not be considered dangerous and the fact a mobile phone was involved as well could have made the consequences of an incident even more devastating.
Had this particular motorist caused an accident that resulted in a fatality he may have faced a life sentence after penalties were increased in an effort to not only deter offenders from committing such offences but also to help victims’ families enjoy a stronger sense of justice following convictions.
Since 2015, twenty-eight forces have taken part in the cab scheme which allows officers to film motorists from an elevated position before pulling the vehicle over in the event an offence has been committed.
The latest figures show that 35 people were killed in accidents where a driver was distracted or impaired by their mobile phone in 2016. This figure is an increase of 22 from the previous year and no doubt a factor in deciding to increase the penalties.
The potential problem with a deterrent is that many people need to witness or experience the impact of it for it to be effective. Fortunately, the number of cases involving a death is relatively low and motorists may possess a mind-set of “it will never happen to me” in relation to death by dangerous or careless driving. If incidents involving fatalities were more regular and motorists could see and read about the instances people were sentenced to a life imprisonment, then the deterrent may hit home a little harder.
As it stands, we have to depend on initiatives like the hub to catch offenders before tragedy strikes. Whilst the police force should no doubt be applauded for such a proactive approach, schemes like this use up police resources and stop officers from policing elsewhere.
Author Neil Sargeant is a Road Traffic specialist within the Duncan Lewis Crime Department, based in Harrow. He has specialised in Road Traffic Law since 2008, establishing close working relationships with some of the country’s leading experts in this field and maintaining an outstanding record of client acquittals. His specialist expertise stretch across road traffic law, but are most extensive in:
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