Traffic officer says there are 7 things drivers always do 'they really shouldn't'

Traffic officer Simon Wardle, with seven years on the job at National Highways, has seen a variety of driving behaviours on the motorway. His team's mission is to keep the traffic flowing safely and come to a halt when necessary due to accidents or serious incidents.

Simon shared insights into his role with Birmingham Live: "People can get confused about the powers that we have. The only power we have is to stop traffic. We can use our radio if people are driving in a condition that is unsafe to other road users and notify the police."

He clarified further, "But we can't get involved ourselves. Unless it is a safety aspect, so for example, if they are driving and there are things bouncing around on their trailer, is there a chance it could fall off and cause an RTC? Yes, therefore, I will have the power to do something about it. I can put a block on behind me (close the lane) and put a signal for him to pull over."

Towing trailers in the fast lane

Under UK law, towing a trailer in the outside lane is illegal, yet Simon frequently observes this violation. He said: "This morning, a 4x4 towing a trailer in the outside lane, exceeding the 60mph speed limit. Well, the problem is, if you work for a company that requires a trailer, for example these telecom companies that have the reels of telecom cable on the back, so those short trailers.

"Who's responsibility is it? Ultimately, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure they are following the Road Traffic Act. But we see it so often. I see people with caravans bouncing down lane three or four at 70mph-plus, because they don't see anything wrong with it. It is the Road Traffic Act, we don't pick what we use to follow or not."

Huge amounts of abuse - including 'driver tizer'

Traffic officers, due to their public-facing role, often face verbal and physical abuse. For protection, they are equipped with body-worn cameras.

Simon shared: "Not just us, but police, ambo, fire, be it the crews that fix potholes, barrier damage, deal with dead animals, debris, we all get mass amounts of abuse, both verbal and physical. Driver tizer is a bottle that HGV drivers pee in and then chuck it onto the side of the motorway for us to clean up. There have been incidents where those have been chucked at - not me - but other traffic officers as well. I get the frustration, especially with HGVs because they are on a time. But, ultimately, our responsibility is safety. If we can't respond without putting a block on, we're going to put a block on."

Adjusting Sat Navs on slip roads

Simon said: "Be prepared, know where you are going. The major problem that we have is that you will see people stop, say on a slip road, in a totally inappropriate place, just to check their sat nav, or to check where they are going."

He suggested that this issue might be due to a 'generational gap', where technology is "a lot more easily understandable" for some than others. Legally, you can only stop on a hard shoulder if it is a medical or mechanical emergency.

Standing on the verge with dogs

If you've had an emergency breakdown on the hard shoulder and have a dog with you, Simon advises that you should leave your pet in the car in case it gets "spooked" by traffic and runs into the road.

He said: "As harsh as it seems, please put your dog back in the car. That is for everybody's safety."

Driving while on a mobile phone

Simon said: "The usual one is a mobile phone. We see that a hell of a lot because we are on the road so much. We see people's habits, they don't think there is anything wrong with driving whilst holding a mobile phone because they are a good driver and they have been driving 40-plus years. Wrong."

He warned that being caught using a mobile while driving could lead to six penalty points and a £200 fine.

Inside the Volvo XC90
Inside Simon's Volvo XC90 -Credit:No credit

People driving without a licence

Regarding unlicensed drivers, Simon and his fellow traffic officers encounter this issue frequently. Those caught face fines and points on their licence.

HGVs stopping in emergency bays for 'tachograph breaks'

Simon said: "HGVs and tacho law. (It is) the most that I get, certainly on a stretch of motorway where there is no hard shoulder, so they are taking up a bay that is used for emergencies only, to have a taco break, a 45-minute tacho break. It is not an emergency, they clearly don't know tacho law. (It's) because they don't want that thing flashing at them to say 'you are 10 minutes outside whatever'."

Lorry drivers are using emergency bays to take mandatory breaks, which are recorded on their tachographs (tachos). Tachographs monitor a driver's driving time and UK regulations mandate that drivers must not operate for more than four hours and 30 minutes without taking a 45-minute break. Additionally, drivers are restricted to a maximum of nine hours of driving per day and 56 hours per week.

Simon commented: "I get if you are sat in crawling traffic, that is eating away at your four-and-a-half. But a hard shoulder, or a bay, is not a safe place to take it. And if DVSA stop and the police, the police will ticket you. ".