Officers from our Tactical Support Team alongside Somerset Passenger Solutions took part in a dedicated operation last week to crack down on road related offences in Bridgwater. Operation Top Deck saw officers identify, engage and prosecute drivers committing road traffic offences which ultimately lead to dangerous and inconsiderate driving.
Officers patrolled Bridgwater town centre in a double-decker bus provided by Somerset Passenger Solutions to enable them to gain an elevated view of drivers inside vehicles. This approach is especially effective to identify drivers using mobile phones whilst at the wheel but also drivers who are distracted by mobile phones whilst driving.
During the four-hour operation, officers identified 32 road traffic offences being committed which resulted in 28 drivers being issued with a fine and/or penalty points and four drivers being summons to court.
The offences identified included:
• 13 driving without wearing a seatbelt
• Nine driving while using a mobile phone
• two driving without a valid driving licence
• four driving without insurance
• one driving whilst disqualified
• two driving without MOT
• one driving an untaxed vehicle
Operation Top Deck also resulted in officers stopping a vehicle that contained an individual wanted by the courts for a separate offence. He was subsequently arrested and remanded in custody.
Two officers sat on the top deck of the bus to observe and evidentially video drivers within their vehicles committing road traffic offences. The offending vehicle was then reported to a supporting policing unit who intercepted them at a check point and dealt with the driver.
The Tactical Support Team supported by Road Safety Department and Local Neighbourhood Teams will continue initiatives such as Operation Top Deck throughout the year to keep the roads across the region safer.
Operation Top Deck follows the successful Operation Tramline, which took place in March across a number of roads in Avon and Somerset including the M5, M4 and A303 and during which officers checked 409 drivers, 11 of which were found to be illegally using a mobile phone while driving.
Driver distractions, including driving whilst using a mobile phone, is one of the ‘Fatal Five’ main causes of serious injuries and death on the roads, alongside driving under the influence of drink or drugs, excess or inappropriate speeds, the failure to wear seatbelts and careless and inconsiderate driving.
Nationally, there has been a worrying increase in the number of motorists caught using their mobile phone whilst driving. Indeed, a recent ‘using a mobile phone whilst driving operation’ conducted by the NPCC in February 2021 recorded the highest volume of motorists caught using their mobile phone whilst driving since March 2017. Out of the 3,637 vehicles stopped during the operation 2,521 drivers were stopped for mobile phone offences – representing 69% of all the vehicles stopped.
Furthermore, the RAC report on Motoring 2020, found that there has been a spike in the number of drivers who admit making or receiving a call while driving. 29% of motorists say they do this occasionally, up from 24% in 2019.
Chief Inspector Jason Shears, Roads Policing Lead for Avon and Somerset Police comments: “Using a mobile phone while driving isn’t just dangerous, it’s a complete disregard for the lives of other people you may be sharing the road with – think teenagers on bicycles, elderly people crossing the roads, and young drivers who have just passed their license.
“Driving while distracted is every bit as unacceptable as drink driving and just as likely to be fatal. According to the NPCC, motorists using a mobile phone or a hand-held device are four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people. It is one of the top concerns for motorists and we’re committed to tackling it.
“Modern technology means anyone can use their phones or dashcams to capture evidence of offending that could be used to prosecute a phone-using or otherwise distracted driver. The chances of being caught are higher than they have ever been and we continue to receive footage of offences from members of the public on a daily basis.
“Everyone has the right to be able to enjoy safe roads free from distracted drivers who are putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. Safety on our roads is a priority for our force and we will not hesitate to use every option available to us, including using unmarked vehicles to tackle dangerous driving”.
Simon Cursio, Managing Director at Somerset Passenger Solutions says: “We are very pleased we have been able to play such a positive part in improving safety in our local community, helping to make the roads of Bridgwater and Somerset even safer for all”.