It’s summer, allegedly, and out come the coach private hires, till the end of the school year at any rate. There are two things I’ve noticed about coaches on my recent travels: a significant increase in tri-axle, six-wheelers on our motorways (and not just for NatEx or Magabus); and an increase in drivers with a bluetooth device riveted to their ear.
Many (most? all?) large bus operators will have a policy about the use of phones, including hands-free. What about smaller operators? The law is quite clear on mobile telephony: handheld is bad, hands-free is acceptable. But as the sobering front page of the Telegraph on 27 June warns, a handsfree phone conversation is seemingly as bad as any other.
"I shan’t name the operator as the purpose of this site is not to act in a vigilante style. But I must say I was shocked..."
Here, a heavy driver was jailed for 4½ years for killing an occupant of a car he failed to spot—because he was engrossed on this handsfree. Campaigners feel that handsfree is equally as dangerous as a hand-held, because it’s easy to get carried away on a call, and because the person on the other end won’t shut up if an awkward situation develops. And you can still be prosecuted for dangerous driving when handsfree.
So, there I was in my car in lane 2 of the motorway closing in on a coach and looking for an opportunity to move to lane 3, when the coach cut its line and lurched abruptly partly into lane 1. It’s as well there was nothing for it to hit. I rounded the vehicle and saw in my mirrors the driver with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a phone to his ear—at 60 mph. No, not handsfree, definitely hand-held. I stuck my hazards on briefly but nothing happened behind, and I was quite glad to accelerate away from it.
I shan’t name the operator as the purpose of this site is not to act in a vigilante style. But I must say I was shocked, even for someone who’s seen drivers texting at the wheel (in the early days of mass-mobiles, before bluetooth and risk reduction policies emerged). It was a Neoplan Skyliner belonging to a northern operator.
And I would say its GVW approached 27-30 tonnes.