Northamptonshire Police may have inadvertently discovered a way to catch motorists using mobile phones whilst driving. A crash on the M1 in June earlier this year caused part of the motorway to be closed for most of the day. Part of the rescue operation involved an injured lorry driver being cut free from her vehicle by the emergency services. Motorists on the opposite carriageway were seen filming the event on mobile phones and digital cameras as they drove past the scene.
Realising what was happening and aware of the potential for further crashes, police quickly set up a camera of their own to capture the crazy antics of the amateur film-makers on the opposite side of the motorway. As a result, eighty warning letters were sent out to the registered keepers of the offending vehicles. No one was prosecuted by the police; however some drivers of company vehicles are now facing disciplinary action from their employers.
This is not the first time cameras have been turned on motorists in an attempt to highlight consequential motoring offences. After setting up a mobile speed camera, Lancashire Police filmed drivers travelling away from the speed trap ‘misusing their headlights’ as they warned oncoming traffic of the police presence. Almost as many motorists were caught for flashing their headlights as were caught for speeding offences.
Some road users have suggested we could see new tactics being deployed by the police to deter motorists from filming whilst driving past accident scenes. It could become standard procedure for the police to set up recording equipment at the scene of a crash to film passing traffic. Surely most drivers would welcome this move? It is incredibly frustrating being held up in traffic, only to discover that the delays were caused by vehicles slowing down to have a look at an incident on the other side of the road.
Northamptonshire Police believes it is the first force in the country to take this sort of action against motorists caught using mobile phones whilst driving. It may not be the last time we hear of cameras being used in this way to issue warnings or even fixed penalty notices.