Major check on telephone use: "Last week I saw a truck driver play poker"

Published Sun, 09/02/2020 - 09:57

"Skoda, telephone in the right hand, with license plate 03-Charlie Foxtrot ...", it sounds in the inconspicuous camper, which is located on the A2 towards Amsterdam. Other conversations will be held in most motorhomes on the highway. But in the white camper with four police officers, the intention today is to point out to as many people as possible the dangers of using the phone behind the wheel.

There is a relaxed atmosphere in the camper. This changes when a calling driver is spotted. ,,Truck on the right, is busy with its telephone. Do you have it, Ismael?” Feroz asks his colleague. Ismael is lying on a high bed in the back of the car. He peers through the window from his hawk position. "I have it," says Ismael, passing on the details of the truck via his two-way radio. 

"During one of the previous promotions we saw a truck driver playing poker on his phone, with two hands on the dashboard, at 80 kilometers per hour."

The unit Midden-Nederland of the Dutch National Police took to the road this morning with twelve cars, three motorbikes and the camper to carry out additional traffic controls. They are mainly focused on telephone use behind the wheel. According to the police, this is desperately needed: smartphones are one of the causes of 25 percent of traffic accidents in the Netherlands. This is the conclusion of a study by SWOV, Scientific Research Road Safety Foundation.

"We issued 154 fines yesterday, of which 114 for telephone use behind the wheel," says Bart, member of the Police unit  Midden-Nederland. "You have to compare that that two years ago, when we started the extra traffic controls. Then we issued a total of 75 traffic tickets in two days." The use of smartphones in traffic is becoming more and more normal for many people. The purpose of the police today is therefore to warn people of the dangers of this.

The action kicked off at eleven o'clock in the morning, when the police gathered twelve cars and one camper in a parking lot on the highway A27, near a village in the centre of the Netherlands. Here the last instructions were given to about 25 officers before they went on the road. Not in police cars, because that would stand out too much.

"We issued 154 fines yesterday, of which 114 for telephone use behind the wheel" Bart, Police Midden-Nederland.

One of the agents, Frank Driessen, drives the inconspicuous police-BMW. About ten minutes later, it happens just ahead of him. Close to Baarn on the highway A1, a Tesla passes at 150 kilometers per hour. The driver, a middle-aged woman, is also texting with a smartphone in her right hand. Driessen presses the gas pedal and overtakes the Tesla a little later. When he is driving in front of the Tesla, the "police stop" signal starts blinking. The woman follows his car and receives a fine of almost € 250 for telephone use behind the wheel. In addition, there is also a fine for speeding.

"This woman happened to be spotted by one of my colleagues," Driessen says, while reinserting on the highway. "We look inside many cars to see if drivers are busy with their telephones." In addition, the police also look for cars that drive slowly behind lorries or that are slightly swinging on the road. ,,Road users who are driving behind the wheel do not realize that they do not have their attention in traffic. Extremely dangerous, especially when there is a lot of traffic. The phone is just a distraction."

The fast BMWs and Audi's may get most drivers off the road, but most app offenders are caught by the police camper. Because the agents are slightly higher here, they can see most cars perfectly. "Yesterday, this motorhome caused about seventy fines," says Feroz. He is a spotter and looks into every car that passes from the left. In the back of the vehicle, even higher, his colleague Ismael is lying on the bed. Most trucks come to him on the right-hand side. "So far I have seen three drivers using their phones. And that really isn't just for calling or appening,” the agent says. "During one of the previous campaigns, we saw a truck driver play poker on his phone, with two hands on the dashboard, at 80 kilometers per hour."

Pokering road users have not yet been seen during the check. The check is still fairly quiet in the white camper. "Volkswagen, November, Zulu, telephone in left hand," Feroz suddenly says again. "Do you have it?" He asks about the radio. "We're going after it," it sounds at the other side. The telephone users that are spotted are passed on to the twelve cars and three motorcycles that are never far away from the camper. They will stop the offenders. Feroz: "After the action we’ll have dinner together and the balance will be drawn up tonight."

The balance of two days of intensive checking ultimately yields a total of 303 fines. Of which 248 for the use of electronic devices behind the wheel.

The SWOV study shows that an average of 63.8 percent sometimes picks up their phone while driving. In the age category of 25 to 34 years this is even 79 per cent.