DRIVERS are putting lives at risk by reading books, shaving, and even eating cereal behind the wheels of their vehicles say police.

The motorists were caught by Hampshire and Thames Valley officers, who patrolled the A34, M27, M3, M4 and M40 over five days last week.

Of the 213 drivers stopped, 151 were caught being distracted behind the wheel and of those, 137 were using their mobile phones.

Other motorists were found reading books and eating, including a van driver who was caught eating breakfast cereal while driving on the M27.

Police also stopped 25 drivers for excess speed, eight for careless driving and others for no insurance, no tax and insecure loads.

The operation was carried out with use of an unmarked HGV tractor unit, lent by Highways England, while officers monitored the roads in unmarked police cars and motorbikes.

Sergeant Paul Diamond, who led the operation, said “It is disappointing to see so many people still using mobile phones while they are driving.

“Sadly we have seen many examples over the last 12 months of lives lost unnecessarily because a driver has not had their full attention on the road.

“That is why identifying distracted drivers is a priority for the Roads Policing Unit across Hampshire and Thames Valley, and we will continue to target drivers who choose to disregard the safety of others.”

Officers were also supported by an examiner from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, who inspected vehicles stopped during the course of the operation. This resulted in prohibitions on ten vehicles for tyre, brake and steering defects.

The use of the unmarked HGV tractor unit also meant many of those stopped for using their mobile phones were found holding their devices below the steering wheel, with the drivers looking at the screen instead of the road ahead.

John Henderson, of Highways England, said: “Safety is our top priority and I am pleased that our HGV cab has been so useful in helping the police to identify unsafe behaviour on the motorways and major A roads.

“It provides an ideal viewing platform for police officers to identify dangerous behaviour that can be difficult to spot from standard police patrol vehicles. 

“Highways England is committed to working with Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary to improve road safety in the region by influencing driver behaviour by this and other initiatives.”