Lorry drivers warned over potentially fatal lapses at wheel

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Lorry drivers have been pictured on Britain's motorways eating and reading at the wheel, with one even appearing to use his elbows to steer.

Police and motoring experts have warned that attitudes need to change to reflect the fact that such distractions, even for a few seconds, can have fatal consequences.

The drivers, travelling on roads in England in recent days, have been snapped looking at paperwork and talking on a mobile phone, in pictures taken by the Press Association.

The AA said the ramifications of such behaviour can be "dire", while road safety charity Brake described the images as "shocking".

Four drivers are pictured on the M20 near Ashford in Kent, two reading, one holding a piece of cutlery and a food container, while another has arms crossed and elbows on the steering wheel.

Another driver of a lorry on the M4 near Swindon looks at a piece of paper, while another uses a mobile phone near junction 46 of the M1 in Yorkshire.

Brake's Jason Wakeford said: "These are shocking images showing drivers with a total disregard for the safety of other road users."

He also condemned cuts to road traffic officers as "savage" and called for traffic policing to be made "a national priority".

The AA's Edmund King, who recalled once seeing a motorist eating a Chinese takeaway using chopsticks, suggested there is a worrying perception that people, especially those in high-up lorry cabs, will not be caught.

He said: "I think the problem with some lorry drivers is they get particularly bored on motorways - they are on long, straight roads, they are driving for hours.

"I think some feel that because they are high up in the cab it is harder to spot them and I think that encourages some of them to do things they really shouldn't."

Police forces around the country have been using unmarked vehicles, including lorries, to catch out drivers engaging in distracting activities behind the wheel.

Pc Dan Pascoe of Surrey Police, who said they came across one driver they believe was using Snapchat, described the use of an unmarked lorry as "invaluable", with the force catching 26 people in one day earlier this month.

He said: "If we can promote the fact that we're out in all different types of vehicles, whether it's an unmarked lorry, an unmarked van, an unmarked car, an unmarked motorbike, we'll use everything that we can as different tactics to deal with people."

Mr King said: "Driving a 44-tonne lorry, whether it's on a motorway or any other road, the consequences of looking down and being distracted for a second or two seconds are absolutely dire."

Lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years last year after killing a woman and three children by ploughing into their stationary car on the A34 near Newbury, Berkshire, while distracted by his phone.

A spokesman for Kent Police said the force runs many road safety operations every year but called on motorists "to play their part too", while a West Yorkshire Police spokesman said the risks associated with drivers using phones are "very clear" and put "you and other road users at risk".

Penalties and fines for drivers caught using a phone illegally were doubled to six points and £200 respectively in March.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "Anyone who is distracted can be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving."