Belfast Telegraph

PSNI clampdown on motorists painting nails and eating cereal at the wheel

By Donna Deeney

Drivers in Londonderry have been caught putting on their make-up, painting their nails, reading the paper - and even eating a bowl of cornflakes, police have revealed.

As part of a new operation, PSNI officers have taken their road safety message directly to motorists on the roads around the city.

Speed checks were also conducted, including one on the Buncrana Road in Derry, a notorious spot for speeders exceeding the 40mph limit.

The Belfast Telegraph joined the PSNI's Sergeant Dermot Butler at one checkpoint, where he said speed checks were just one aspect of keeping people safe on the road.

He explained: "People's attitudes change when they see the police carrying out speed detection operations and enforcing the traffic laws, which is the reason we do it."

A major problem in Derry is the number of drivers not wearing seatbelts.

"Very few people actually wear seatbelts, but when I stop them they insist this was the only time they didn't wear it," he said.

"Mobile phones are another problem. They are a big distraction when you are driving and it is the fact they are in the driver's hand is the problem.

"Again, I have had people tell me: 'I wasn't on the phone, I was changing a song on my playlist'. But they are veering all over the road and are failing to keep control of their vehicle.

"Just last week I witnessed a lady sitting in traffic painting her nails, which is ridiculous.

"I've had other people eating a bowl of cornflakes, putting on make-up, shaving, reading a newspaper, lorry drivers with their docket book on the steering wheel.

"Some of the them are surprised that they have been stopped and suggest we should be out catching burglars, but the people who are killed or seriously injured on our roads is something we feel very strongly about."

The single biggest factor in road deaths remains excess speed, but drivers caught over the limit don't always see the real reason behind their fixed penalty notice.

Sergeant Butler added: "As a police officer I have attended fatal road collisions where people have died and are lying on the road and that is tough to deal with. It is depressing that so many of the crashes we go to were avoidable; road safety is the reason we carry out speed detections, because we are trying to bring down the number of fatalities on our roads.

"We are trying to save lives and any money that is raised from fixed penalty notices goes back into traffic enforcement, so it's all going towards trying to solve the problems.

"It is a matter of reinforcing that message day and daily.

"One of the main ways we can do it is on operations like today."

A spokeswoman for the PSNI explained the rationale behind the campaign.

She said: "Road safety is everyone's responsibility and a priority for police in the north west every single day of the week.

"However, there are opportunities like with this operation when we can really focus our efforts on addressing the main factors behind deaths and life changing injuries on our roads.

"Our main aim is to educate the public around the top causation factors in fatal and serious collisions, the importance of being seen on the road, whether you are a pedestrian or cyclist, and how alcohol and drugs can seriously impair your judgment.

"This isn't just about handing out fines and penalty points, it is about keeping safe on the roads"

The education campaign has also been taken into schools, with police handing out reflective bibs to pupils and talking to parents about parking safely during busy periods such as the school run.

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