A DRIVER was caught changing music on his mobile phone as part of a police crackdown – the same thing a lorry driver was doing when he crashed into a car killing four people.
The News spent a morning on patrol with officers as they looked for drivers using their phones.
PC Mark Fruin was out spotting motorists and clocked the driver staring down at his lap.
Turning his unmarked Skoda into a noisy blaze of blue lights and sirens, PC Fruin signalled to the 31-year-old hospital worker to stop.
The driver had not even seen the police car parked on the Portsbridge Roundabout before joining traffic.
But when he stopped his Honda Civic in the car park at Lynx House, Northern Road, Cosham, the driver admitted he was fiddling with his phone.
His reason for using his phone – changing music track – the same thing a lorry driver did on the A34 moments before crashing and killing four members of a family, including three children.
And that momentary inattention – staring at a screen and not the road – is what police know will kill again.
Roads policing officers up and down the country launched a week-long crackdown on Monday, and The News joined PC Fruin, based at Havant station, to see the operation in action.
He caught two drivers in 40 minutes during the busy morning shift on Wednesday.
Eagle-eyed PC Fruin, an officer for 19 years, is able to spot almost instantly if a driver is not wearing a seatbelt, is on their phone or distracted.
He was pleased the driver admitted he was using his phone – otherwise it would have been tough to prove.
‘Had he not put his hands up to it, it would have just words of advice,’ PC Fruin said after issuing a fixed penalty notice.
‘They can do 60mph at the roundabout and he’s trying to pull out.
‘He was more interested with what was on his lap than what’s out the window.’
The driver admitted he knew there was a crackdown running this week and was aware of the dangers.
He told The News: ‘I was just changing my Spotify.
‘I put my head down, I was waiting for the cars to go. I’m not one for making calls.’
Asked if he knew of the danger he said: ‘I see people with one hand on the wheel and one off, that’s so risky.’
Next PC Fruin moved to a spot watching London Road, Cosham, close to the junction with Southwick Hill Road for Queen Alexandra Hospital.
It was just a few minutes before a lorry driver went past, his phone at his ear.
The 56-year-old was warned after being caught close to traffic lights – where traffic could stop suddenly – and issued a FPN.
He told The News: ‘I was using my mobile for a business call. I agree it’s dangerous – they kept ringing me.’
The lorry driver of 20 years added: ‘I wasn’t going particularly fast.’
Two other drivers were caught by PC Fruin’s colleagues out on the roads the same morning.
Both drivers were men and caught on London Road and Eastern Road roundabout.
‘I don’t think the public see it as socially unacceptable,’ PC Fruin said.
‘As police officers we see the carnage it causes.’
He added: ‘It’s so dangerous, we all think it’s not going to happen to us. We all think we’re good drivers and better than the next person.
‘But it only takes a second or two, a momentary lapse of concentration, to look down, look at your mobile phone to read a text, see an incoming call or dial a number.
‘In those split seconds it only takes a child to step out in front of you or the car in front of you to brake suddenly, and you not see it, and you are going to go into the back of that car. It is just extremely dangerous.’
Police at Havant Roads Policing Unit have been running phone operations across the week, while still patrolling the roads.
The News joined PC Fruin as he co-ordinated traffic at a crash in Horndean Road, Rowlands Castle, and left as he put a roadblock in place while firefighters cut a woman out of her car in Bells Lane, Stubbington.
He said that unless police launch a campaign, such as the one this week, officers are stretched so much it can be difficult to set aside time to focus on one issue.
But Sgt Jim Chapman, who headed up the shift on Wednesday and acts as a spotter to alert waiting units of any drivers using phones, was clear the benefits are there during crackdowns.
‘When we do a concerted operation, we can pick off three or four every 10 minutes,’ he said.
The last crackdown in May saw 190 people caught in Hampshire, an increase of 36 per cent on the previous year.
Hampshire’s Road Safety Sergeant Rob Heard’s advice is simple – put your phone out of reach. He said: ‘It’s not worth the risk.’