Almost 700 offences were spotted in just one week by police officers patrolling a short section of the M1.

Using a National Highways’ unmarked HGV, eight police forces travelled the route between Leeds and London. They were on the look-out for unsafe driving in a week of action targeting the motorway in Operation Freeway.

Motorway madness

The operation say police stop a total of 663 vehicles and uncovered 691 offences.

Most common offences were not wearing a seatbelt – 239 people were caught without their belt on, 73 in South Yorkshire alone.

This was followed by 181 people spotted using a mobile phone at the wheel, then 44 drivers not in proper control of their vehicle and 43 driving without due care and attention.

Penalties ranged from words of advice and traffic offence reports to 14 court summons and five arrests.

Birds eye views

National Highways provides the unmarked HGV cabs to police forces across the country. This is part of Operation Tramline.

From the elevated position in the HGV, officers can spot unsafe driving behaviour more easily.

The 663 vehicles stopped included 180 HGVs and 204 private vehicles.

One driver in Northamptonshire was stopped due to the front side windows being heavily tinted. When tested, they only allowed 11% of light through. The driver admitted to officers: “I sometimes have to wind the window down to see at night’. He was reported for having a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

The same force also stopped a driver with an insecure load. The driver argued “that their own weight holds them on”.


Northamptonshire Police spotted this vehicle heading for the M1

Meanwhile Derbyshire Police spotted a number of other unsecured loads during the week of action. These included a vehicle travelling along the motorway with various household items untied on the trailer.



Obvious failures

Taking place during the first week of March, it included some severe wintry weather conditions. . Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police officers had to pull over a number of vehicles. These were either covered in snow or had not even turned their lights on despite very poor visibility .

“Hundreds of thousands of motorists travel over 21 million miles on the M1 every day,” states  National Highways Head of Road Safety, Jeremy Phillips. These account for one in seven of all motorway journeys in the UK.

“It is disappointing that almost 700 offences were spotted in just one week – but thanks to Operation Freeway those drivers were prevented from continuing with their unsafe behaviours.

Call the police

Dave Shaw, of the Derbyshire Police Roads Policing Unit, says the unmarked HGV is a great tool. It helps spot unsuspecting drivers driving dangerously or breaking the law.

“It’s still very disappointing to see so many drivers ignoring the law and choosing to commit offences on the roads.

His colleague, Sergeant James Parmar, of West Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Unit concurs.

“We stopped 86 drivers on West Yorkshire’s stretch of the M1 during Operation Freeway for over 90 offences. The vast majority of these drivers were driving HGV or LGV vehicles and stopped for fatal five offences.

“The reality is that the dangers of actions such as using a mobile phone while driving, not wearing a seatbelt or driving without due care or attention are potentially even more catastrophic when a larger vehicle is involved. The action that we have taken, alongside other police forces and National Highways, is all about keeping our roads safe for everyone.”