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select for full details BBC speeds ahead with motorway docusoap
Last night on BBC2: The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, about people who work on the M6, was watched by 2.4 million viewers
By The Guardian 17 September, 2014
ITV was clearly way ahead of its time with its 1998 series Motorway Life, which prompted all sorts of giggles when it jumped on the post-Driving School docusoap bandwagon. “A TV programme? About a motorway?”

It was unceremoniously yanked onto the hard shoulder after just three episodes.

Last night on BBC2: The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, about people who work on the M6, was watched by 2.4 million viewers, a 12.1% share, some considerable MPH ahead of Channel 4’s bum note Don’t Stop the Music, seen by just 466,000 people.

Still, there was some consolation to be had by ITV.

The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane was made by ... ITV Studios. Don’t stop the docusoap, baby!

M6 arrests after three men found walking along motorway
Three people were picked up by West Midlands Police officers after apparently falling from underneath a lorry and walking along the hard shoulder near to Junction 8
By Nick McCarthy 17 September, 2014
Three more suspected illegal immigrants from Africa have been arrested by motorway police after they were found walking along the hard shoulder of the M6 this morning.

The trio were picked up by officers after apparently falling from underneath a lorry and walking along the hard shoulder near to Junction 8.

A motorist called in police after reporting that the men had appeared to have fallen from underneath a lorry on the north bound carriageway just before 9.15am.

Officers arrested two 33-year-old men and a 27-year-old on suspicion of immigration offences this morning.

The men are currently in custody at a local police station and the inquiry will be handed over to the UK Border Force (UKBF).

The discovery comes just a month after three Eritrean women were picked up after posing for pictures on live lanes of the carriageway near to Spaghetti Junction.

The Home Office confirmed that those women - from the East African country of Eritrea - were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences after being found on August 20.

Two women, both aged 25, are in immigration detention and face removal if found to have no right to remain in the UK.

The other female, believed to be a minor, has been taken into the care of social services.

Speaking about the latest discovery today Sergeant Ian Williams, from the Central Motorway Police Group, said: “It appears that these men may have risked their lives trying to get into the country and a passing motorist reported seeing them fall from underneath a lorry and then making

select for full details Motorists warned to avoid M6 Toll after caravan smash
A trail of wreckage was left strewn across the M6 Toll in Staffordshire after a caravan overturned and disintegrated on the main route
By Express & Star 10 September, 2014
Nobody was injured in the accident on the northbound carriageway between Cannock and Brownhills.

This dramatic image shows a range of items, including wooden seats and mattresses, scattered across the road. A car is believed to have been in collision with the caravan, which was being towed along and ended up on its side.

Emergency services, including the Central Motorway Police Group, West Midlands Ambulance Service and Highways Agency, were called to the scene between T6 and T7 at around 1.50pm yesterday.

All lanes were closed but the third was able to open up within half an hour.

Motorists were hit with delays of around 30 minutes and it took until late afternoon for the route to be fully cleared and running as normal.

Police initially tweeted to warn drivers to avoid the M6 Toll south. They later added: “No one has been injured in the Toll Road RTC involving the caravan, and HA officers have just opened lane three.”

West Midlands Ambulance Service spokeswoman Suzie Wheaton confirmed paramedics were called at around 1.50pm and no-one was injured.

It comes as a man has been charged with various driving offences after a car smashed into a police car in a separate incident on the M6 Toll.

Two police officers were injured in the smash following a pursuit on Saturday.

select for full details London Mayor renews calls for diesel car scrappage scheme
Boris Johnson suggests motorists should receive up to £2000 to encourage older diesel-engined vehicles off the UK’s roads
By Matt Burt 11 September, 2014
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has backed a proposal to offer cash to encourage motorists to trade in old diesel-engined cars for more modern, cleaner vehicles.

Under the proposed scheme, which would effectively be a diesel-specific revival of the vehicle scrappage initiative that ran between 2009 and 2010, motorists would be offered a grant of between £1000 and £2000 to replace cars that don’t meet modern emissions standards.

Giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee in London yesterday, Johnson said this was “a brilliant opportunity to support the British car industry and promote the early uptake of ultra low emission vehicles”.

He also expressed sympathy for motorists who had heeded previous government advice to buy more frugal and expensive diesel cars, only for policy makers to change their minds in light of more recent research which suggests particulates in diesel emissions contribute to health issues.

“What we’re saying is it should be between one and two thousand pounds for people who have been seduced into buying a diesel vehicle,” he said.

“I feel very sorry for them. This has been a massive failure of public policy. Millions of people were told that they were doing the environmentally friendly thing by buying a diesel vehicle and they now feel very hacked off that suddenly they’re being told that their vehicles are polluting.

“They deserve support and you could use the diesel scrappage scheme to stimulate the market for cleaner vehicles as the 2009 scheme did."

Johnson estimated that the diesel scrappage scheme would cost the government about £300m, which was the same amount set aside for the original initiative.

select for full details German coalition partners clash over motorway toll
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian coalition partner have clashed in an unusually public spat over plans to introduce a motorway toll that critics say is designed to fleece foreigners.
By Eur Active 26 August, 2014
Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) want foreign motorists to pay tolls on German motorways and other roads. They say it is unfair that foreigners travel for free on German motorways while Germans have to pay tolls in neighbouring countries such as Austria, Switzerland and France.

Senior CDU members, Armin Laschet and Thomas Strobl, said the introduction of tolls on all roads and motorways would impose an excessive burden on motorists and cause more problems than they would solve for Germany's regions.

Their criticism drew an angry response from CSU deputy leader Andreas Scheuer in Monday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

"That just shows how completely clueless they are," he said, in a surprisingly sharp rebuke of the centre-right CDU that exposed the split in Germany's conservative camp on the eve of elections in three German regions that start on Sunday.

"The toll is going to be introduced on all roads in Germany," Scheuer said, whose conservative party agrees with the CDU on most other issues.

Opinion polls show Germans favour a road toll for foreigners. The issue is especially sensitive in Bavaria, a major crossroads for foreign motorists travelling from northern European countries to the Balkans and southern Europe.

The motorway toll issue has dominated German media for months, vying with major international crises such as Ukraine, Syria and Gaza for public attention.


The CSU pressed the motorway toll issue in coalition talks after last year's German federal elections.

But Merkel's CDU and its other coalition ally, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), said they would only back the toll if it did not lead to extra costs for German motorists and if it complied with European Union rules that prohibit discrimination against foreign motorists.

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, a CSU leader, has proposed a compromise whereby annual taxes now paid by all German motorists would be lowered by about the same €88 fee the

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select for full details New £1bn motorway to ease south Wales congestion
It is the largest capital investment programme ever announced by the Welsh government.
By BBC NEWS 16 July, 2014
Supporters say it will improve transport in south Wales, ease congestion and boost jobs.

But opponents have criticised the plan because of its environmental impact and one group has dubbed it a "billion pound mistake."

The new road will run between Junctions 23 and 29 and include a new bridge and could be completed by the spring of 2022.

Three routes were under consideration, but Mrs Hart told AMs on Wednesday that "none of the alternative solutions proposed could reasonably deliver the objectives" of easing congestion.

She said it was important that Wales has "an effective economic infrastructure which improves our competitiveness and access to jobs and services."

Environmental and some business groups have criticised the preferred route as unnecessarily damaging and costly.

Friends of the Earth Cymru said the decision will see a six-lane motorway "plough through part of one of Wales' most protected and environmentally sensitive landscapes" - the Gwent Levels.

Director Gareth Clubb said: "This vastly expensive, utterly unnecessary and terribly damaging motorway is the worst possible transport choice for south east Wales.

"And the £1bn price tag means that, at a time when traffic has actually decreased since 2007, it's going to come at the cost of the sustainable solutions that could benefit us all.

select for full details Parking warden fighting for life after being hit over head with plank of wood
Warden attack: the incident happened in Myddleton Road, Bounds Green (file image)
By Matt Watts John Dunne and Kiran Randhawa on 10 September, 2014
A traffic warden is fighting for his life after being beaten unconscious in a dispute over a parking ticket.

The man was battered across the head with a plank of wood before collapsing in front of horrified shoppers in Bounds Green.

Eye-witnesses today claimed that the warden initially resisted after he was assaulted, then he and his attacker fought a running battle down the busy street yesterday.

But the warden suddenly keeled over and was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. He remained there today and was said to be “serious but stable”.

Andrea Constantinides, 45, ran to help the man and gave him first aid. The lettings consultant, who works on Myddleton Road where the attack took place, said: “There was a running battle all the way along the road. It was really nasty. The warden was standing one minute, then he just collapsed

“I ran over and tried to put him in the best position. He was breathing but not responding.

“There was not much blood but it was obvious that he had been seriously injured. I really thought the worst.”

Onlooker Afroulla Yiannopoulou, 48, called the ambulance. She said: “These guys were both fighting each other and the warden was hitting back.

“They were battling all along the street. I phoned for an ambulance but it took ages. Luckily there was a first aider on the scene and a nurse who was passing helped.”

A building worker, who only gave his name as George, tried to drag the driver off the warden. He said: “I did break them up but the warden continued to fight as well. At one point the warden picked up the man and threw him.

“At another stage the warden was on the ground and the man was repeatedly punching him in the face. It was really sickening. He is lucky to be alive.”

The Haringey council warden had issued a ticket just moments before the attack at about 4.45pm yesterday.

An hour afterwards police arrested a 29-year-old man on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm. He was being questioned by officers at a north London police station today.

Haringey council said: “We are providing support to our officer and his family at this time. Our staff should be safe to do their job without fear of violence.

select for full details Crown Office employee Iain Sawers guilty of leaks
Iain Sawers, 25, from Edinburgh, was found guilty at the end of a seven-day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court
By BBC NEWS 5 September, 2014
A jury found him guilty on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, the Official Secrets Act and nine under the Data Protection Act.

The sheriff said he was considering imposing a custodial sentence.

Sentence was deferred until 19 September. Sawers was bailed.

Sawers joined the Productions Office of the Procurator Fiscal Service in Chambers Street in the city in 2008.

His induction covered security of information and the warning that any breach could lead to disciplinary proceedings. He was also told, under the Official Secrets Act, the unauthorised disclosure of documents was an offence.

The offences by Sawers came to light when police began an investigation into the case of 27-year old Calum Stewart on charges of breach of bail and attempting to pervert the course of justice by threatening his ex-partner, Kelli Anne Smillie, if she gave evidence in a trial in July, 2013.

Stewart paid for her and her mother to leave the country and go on holiday to Benidorm on the week of the trial.

The police investigations led them to a number of phone calls and text messages between Stewart and Sawers between 24 and 29 January 2014.

These led to Stewart phoning Kelli Anne threatening her and her mother. They were to be witnesses in the outstanding trial which has since been deserted by the Crown.

The police also recovered Sawers' iPhone. Although many messages had been deleted, forensic experts were able to recover them and the telephone numbers of the senders and receiver. They showed that between April 2008 and January 2014, Sawers had passed on information to other people on nine occasions.

A check on the productions office computer showed shortly after receiving a call, Sawers' secret personal user number was used to access the information.

The jury also found Stewart guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice and breach of bail. Neither men gave evidence during the trial.

In his closing address to the jury, Fiscal Depute, Keith O'Mahony told them: "This trial is about you as members of the public, who at some time in the future may be the victim of a crime.

"If you are, you will go to the police and they will bring the case to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

"When you report that case you must have confidence your details - name, address, date of birth and telephone number will be kept safe, secure and confidential and not disclosed to others, particularly to people who may wish to harm you."

select for full details Apple’s iOS 8 is so secure, even the police can’t get hold of your personal details
In an open letter to customers, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook announced the firm has changed the way encryption works in iOS 8.
As a result the company can no longer bypass a user’s passcode, making it impossible for it to hand over data to law enforcement officers and governments

By Victoria Woollaston 18 September, 2014
This is the case, even if a search warrant is served on the firm or customer.

These new rules, however, only apply to data stored on the device, locked by a passcode, and Apple will be able to access data stored on iCloud if presented with a warrant for it.

And because these new features only apply to iOS 8, data can be extracted where necessary on devices running older versions of the software, from iOS 4 to iOS 7, as has always been the case.

The announcement is part of a wider privacy and security push being made by Apple to protect its users.

In the letter, on Apple’s new Privacy page, Mr Cook wrote:

‘At Apple, your trust means everything to us.

'We’re publishing this website to explain how we handle your personal information, what we do and don’t collect, and why.

‘A few years ago, users of internet services began to realise that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.

‘But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.’

According to the new privacy site, on devices running iOS 8, personal data including photos, messages - including attachments - email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders are placed under the protection of a user’s passcode.

‘Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,’ continued the firm.

‘So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.’

And as part of Apple’s updated Legal Process Guidelines, used by the police and governments, the firm said: ‘For all devices running iOS 8.0 and later versions, Apple will no longer be performing iOS data extractions as the data sought will be encrypted and Apple will not possess the encryption key

select for full details Police chief urges: Help addicts more and legalise heroin
Heroin should be decriminalised and the vilification of addicts must end as the ‘war on drugs’ has failed, a senior police figure has claimed.
By METRO NEWSPAPER 4 September, 2014
After ‘decades of failure’, the government needs to rethink its policies, stated Durham’s police and crime commissioner, Ron Hogg.

‘We need a new approach; one that treats addicts as patients who need treatment, rather than criminals who need locking up,’ he wrote in The Northern Echo.

‘I call for the government to decriminalise addiction and support recovery. Isolation and persecution of addicts is uncivilised, unsuccessful and too often wholly unaddressed.’

Mr Hogg said decriminalisation would rid Britain’s streets of heroin, prevent fatal overdoses and stop drug dealers from preying on the addicted while lining their own pockets.

He also suggested we follow the lead of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland and introduce drug consumption rooms where addicts, could ‘be saved’ by being given controlled doses of diamorphine.



Simon Fraser · Top Commenter · Works at Student
Well done metro. There is a big difference between legalisation and decriminalisation. It does not mean that they are legal, rather that you will not be treated like a criminal if you have a small amount in you for personal use.
September 4 at 9:01am


Lee Brandley · Colchester, Essex
Look at the results in Canada; Denmark; Germany; Australia etc.. is it working, have the figures lowered of fatal overdoses; crime waves; drug dealing arrests; etc.. then follow suit. Can't be any more of a failure than the present way of treating the disease of addiction. At last! A copper with a modicum of common sense. :)
September 7 at 12:33am


Wurz Gummeridge · Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Absolutely and totally agree that we should decriminalise heroin and other drug addiction, an instant blow on organised crime. At last, a Police and Crime Commissioner who isn't afraid to stand up and say what so many are thinking.
September 6 at 8:39pm


Tony Paterson · Glasgow, United Kingdom
I kinda agree with this. If supply = demand then there will always be illegal heroin dealers. You can disrupt the flow of cash to criminal organisations that are in control of the supply by offering controlled access to it for recovery purposes.
If I remember correctly heroin is also a lot safer than methadone, which is also addictive and can be deadly without warning, even in controled doses. If I'm still remembering correctly, methadone is also way more expensive than heroin too.
I don't think it is a problem that will be solved over night but I do think that this is a good way of disrupting the status quo as it is now.
September 4 at 10:04am


Lynny Hartley · St georges church of england school
youve got to be kidding me
September 4 at 6:59pm

select for full details My own private toll road: £150,000 to avoid a detour on the A431
Businessman Mike Watts has opened a road across a field to help commuters between Bristol and Bath
By Paula Cocozza 4 August, 2014
At the village of Kelston in Somerset, the main road simply stops. Fields lie either side: hills to the north, to the south sliding down to the river Avon. The A431 here has been closed for repair since a landslip in February. At this juncture, drivers can follow a diversion and add up to an hour to the journey from Bath to Bristol. Or they can pay £2 to cross one of those fields on the UK's first new private toll road to open in more than 100 years. So says Mike Watts, director of Kelston Toll Road Limited, the man who was so fed up with his ravaged commute to Bath that he spent £150,000 of his own money to build the 365 metres of road that bypasses the roadworks. "Time is of the essence. Every day the road is a problem for hundreds of people."

How did he come up with such an implausible plan?

"I was in the Old Crown in Kelston one night," he says. This sounds like a familiar start to a story recounting the origins of a harebrained idea. But among Watts's fellow drinkers that night was John Dinham, who owns the field in question, and who had been letting local owners of 4x4s drive across it as a kindness. All very well, until "someone tweeted it", Dinham says, and then "all of a sudden" lots of locals who didn't own 4x4s started driving across the field too. On muddy days, he had to go down there and tow some of them out. "I had to padlock the gate and only give the combination out to people who had 4x4s."

That was when Watts suggested a toll road. Actually, it was his wife, Wendy, with whom he runs an espresso bar and two Funtastic party shops in Bath's Guildhall market, who said: "You should put in a toll road and charge people." But Watts is "the mouthpiece" (Watts says), and so he told Dinham: "If you want, we'll do a deal. I'll pull it all together, I'll fund it."

That was in May. Last month, the road builders began. Ten days later, the road was ready. "Maybe two weeks," says the site foreman for RM Penney, who wishes to remain anonymous. The process was fast because there are no kerbs, no tarmac, just the sub-base normally found beneath tarmac. The stones came from a local quarry at Wick. The weather was kind. The road opened last Friday.

On Sunday, 500 or 600 cars drove through. Watts estimates they need 1,000 a day to break even, taking into consideration public liability insurance and other running costs between now and December, when the old road is scheduled to reopen. He says the £2 toll is excellent value for the 14 miles the track will save drivers. "And there is the most amazing view of the river Avon going through the valley. It is worth £2 just to see that." Any profit – though he says he expects none – will be split with Dinham. select for full details

It seems incredible that a road could go from conception to completion in less than three months, particularly with someone with no roadbuilding experience at the wheel. How was it possible? Dinham, who is speaking from Plymouth, because he also owns a haulage business, says: "As far as we are concerned, we have the council on our side." The council says only that it stands by its statement of 9 July, that it "will not encourage proposals that have not been proven to be safe or compliant with statutory requirements". It awaits imminent receipt of Watts's retrospective planning application but, in the meantime, the toll road is open for business.

Watts has previous when it comes to ambitious ideas. Earlier this year, he launched a campaign to give Bath its own flag (one of his shops sells flags), before it turned out that it already had one. Plenty of people give voice to madcap plans in pubs. Why did he decide to pursue this one? "I live by a saying that my wife bought in a frame, and which hangs on our wall at home. It says, 'There are some people that make things happen. There are some people that watch things happen. And there are some people that think, What happened?'" He pauses. "I like to be the one that makes things happen."

The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane.
This BBC2 documentary follows some of the teams trying to keep the M6 ticking. It’s a bleak picture of choked-up Britain
By Sam Wollaston 10 September, 2014
select for full details The M6, our longest motorway, is the country’s aorta, feeding the old industrial heart. But it’s the aorta and heart of a heavy smoker, clogged up and knackered; the West Midlands is choking up, that aneurism is never far off. The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane (BBC2) follows some of the teams trying to keep it all ticking. Men in hi-viz vests and hard hats, not scrubs.

Actually, “the fast lane” is a bit of a misnomer. Not only does the traffic on the M6 never move very quickly, if at all (except when the men in hard hats have to run across it, which they do when they need to close the motorway). Most of the drama in this oddly fascinating but depressing observational documentary happens over on the left-hand side of the carriageway.

On the hard shoulder, for example, which isn’t always a hard shoulder these days. Because of aforementioned cloggage – five times the number of vehicles than there were when it opened – the hard shoulder becomes a lane at busy times. A smart motorway, they call it. Which is of no comfort to the poor lady having a puncture-induced panic attack. Where the hell is she supposed to pull over now? Her daughter responds in the modern way, by tweeting about it.

Further left, on the verge, the litter tells its own story. A £20 note, then a fiver, sucked out of a nearside window, probably. But that’s the end of the good news for the poor man whose job it is to pick the rubbish up. “Driver Tizer” is a new one on me – lorry driver piss, bottled on the go, then jettisoned. Eurgh. This one, as the litter man says, dark and full of bits, looks as if whoever produced it could do with some urgent maintenance himself.

And it gets worse. “Some people decide it’s OK to shit in a bag, and then just lob it out the window,” he says. A colleague was cutting the grass on the bank “and he strimmed through a bag of human shit”. Mmmm.

Lorry drivers don’t come out of this well. If they’re not urinating and defecating on the hoof, they’re catching up on box sets on the dashboard. The Sopranos maybe, round Spaghetti Junction. Or they’re spitting at the workmen, for slowing their progress. Or cutting in terrifyingly around the cones, grabbing the final places on the motorway before it’s closed. Or maybe it’s just that their brakes don’t work, and they can’t stop. Lorry drivers, you can’t all be so bad, can you? (Ducks, in case of flying bags.)

Further left still, but not that far, just a few metres from the road, people try to live. People like Alan and Jim, who has self-diagnosed himself with OMD: Obsessive Motorway Disorder. And Mr and Mrs Croak, who were here before the M6 was here. Then it came, an elevated section, filling the sky above their back garden with concrete and noise. Now, because of a drainage problem, their garden is filling with water. They should have emigrated to Australia back in the 1960s, when Mr Croak wanted to.

It’s a bleak picture of choked-up Britain – more and more cars, less space, no one happy, out-of-control lorries, the air filled with decibels and anger, airborne phlegm, driver Tizer and bags of poo. The only nice moment – a thin slice of joy among the misery – is when Matt the Tarmac-er brings a caramelised onion quiche along to share out among the nightshift workers.

select for full details Mother joins motorway police clampdown on mobiles
Lisa Thomas is still coping with the grief after her "beautiful, caring" young daughter was killed at the age of 20 when an HGV crashed into her car on the hard shoulder
By Sutton Coldfield Observer 19 September, 2014
But this was a death that was entirely preventable – the 44-year-old lorry driver had been browsing the internet on his mobile phone at the time of the crash.

Laura and her fiancé, Lewis Pagett, had been standing on a grass verge on the A5 between Telford and Shrewsbury in July last year after their car had broken down on the way to Wales. They were both struck by their own vehicle after the lorry crashed into it and sent it flying over the safety barrier, where it hit the pair, killing Laura and seriously injuring her partner.

"Until you are in this position, you cannot comprehend how it feels to lose your child," Lisa says. "The immense loss the whole family go through, the anger that even though she had done everything right, she had safely stepped over the barrier out of the way of what you believe to be a danger and yet still she has had her life snatched from her."

select for full details Now Lisa is backing a two-week campaign by the Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) which begins this week targeting people making phone calls, texting and using social media or other apps while behind the wheel.

Patrolling the M6, M42 and M5 officers will be identifying offenders. An HGV tractor unit will also be used by officers to spot lorry drivers flouting the law.

I join Patrol Sergeant Rob Barker in an unmarked car to see just how prolific the offence is. Anecdotally Sgt Barker believes more people have been using their phones in the past six months. "It did seem to be on the decline and we thought the message was getting through, but all of a sudden it's become a common problem again," he tells me.

Within a short time on the M6 we spot someone using their phone. A 28-year-old from Erdington says he was using the phone to call his insurer. I expected him to protest or make excuses, but he knew he was in the wrong.

"There can't be anyone driving who doesn't know they shouldn't use a mobile phone," Sgt Barker says. "They know but they still do it. Whether they just think they won't be caught, I don't know. The number of times they tell me it's first time they've done it..."

We turn onto the M42 and within minutes we see another one, this time a 26-year-old from Wolverhampton. He was checking Google for traffic updates – something his friend in the passenger seat could easily have done for him.

Sgt Barker explains what the consequences could be for his actions and checks his licence. It's totally clean. It just shows how any law-abiding citizen could find themselves in trouble over a mobile phone offence if they make the wrong choice

A short time after the man is sent on his way we spot a lorry driver who may have been using his phone, but the low vantage point of the car makes it difficult to know for sure.

Is he holding a phone or scratching his ear? Is he cradling the phone to his ear with his shoulder or stretching out a crick in his neck?

We give him the benefit of the doubt. It's the reason the HGV tractor unit will also be used by officers to spot lorry drivers flouting the law.

"The maximum fine is £2,500 for a lorry driver, so they have to take it seriously," Sgt Barker tells me. "With a lot of firms, like Eddie Stobart, you will get the sack; gross misconduct. It's not worth it. There's talk of putting the fines up but I don't know if that would stop people. It would be better for manufacturers to work on putting Bluetooth into their cars."

Back at the CMPG base in Perry Barr I meet Inspector Sion Hathway, who is leading the clampdown, and it's clear he is determined to educate drivers about leaving their phones alone.

"It's been ten years now since the laws came in but in that time the number of offences has continued to rise," he says.

"In 2012, 17 people were killed. All these deaths are preventable; just don't do it. Is the call you're about to take worth someone's life? Can you live with the consequences of taking a person's life?

"People think it's okay because they are a good driver, but there's been a study showing that reaction times when using a phone are 30 per cent slower than someone who is over the drink drive limit and 50 per cent slower than under normal driving conditions.

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