Documentary series centred on the A1. Emergency services fight to cut a woman free from her car after a rush-hour crash, and police take a suspected of drink-driver off the A1.
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The A1 - Britain's longest road.
Stretching almost 400 miles from the City of London
to the heart of the Scottish capital.
Connecting two nations and passing through 18 counties.
It's an unrivalled highway
used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day.
We're going southbound down the A1 on the northbound carriageway.
But not all journeys go to plan.
I thought, "I'm going to lose my life."
Cars are coming close. It is the dangerous place to be.
Lives can hang in the balance.
The rear end of that vehicle, it's unrecognisable.
This is actually the bodywork of the car.
24 hours a day...
It's not a safe place here.
..there's a team of people who keep us safe from harm.
We don't know if they've got the road closed,
we don't know what happened.
..and traffic officers...
..keeping Britain's most iconic road...
-..on the move.
CAR HORN BLARES
Substantially damaged flatbed truck in lane two.
The A1, the monster that it is, will start to return to normal.
Coming up -
the fight to cut a woman free from her car...
Don't panic, darling.
..without causing her further injury.
Keep your head as still as possible.
A motorist accused of drink-driving...
Have you had any alcohol in the last 20 minutes?
..is left high and dry...
There's a high probability that his alcohol level is going up.
..and a driver's loose load
threatens to cause chaos on the carriageway.
You've got boxes of tools, you've got bags of tools,
It's going to cause serious injury there,
it's going to cause a massive crash.
Of the 10,000 incidents tackled by Highways England traffic officers
on the A1 every year, one in five is an accident.
One of the busiest parts of the road is a two-lane stretch
between Doncaster and Ferrybridge.
It's 7.40 on a Friday evening...
..and Paul Day and Rob Larkin
are responding to a call about an incident -
but so far, they've few details to go on.
The nature of the job is not known yet,
but the cameras can see hazard lights,
traffic's moving very slowly
and indicating round an incident,
so at the minute we're just going in blind, really.
With very little information and no idea how serious the call is,
Paul and Rob need to investigate quickly.
It could be anything, this, from a medical emergency...
-Could be just a flat tyre.
-It could be just a flat tyre.
It could be anything minor from something just broken down
to somebody being run over, for instance.
As they get closer,
the build-up of traffic suggests there's a serious incident.
This is now an emergency.
Get out t'way.
And more information comes through about what lies ahead...
Three-vehicle RTC reported.
Ambulance en route.
Rob and Paul are the first emergency team to arrive.
It's a three-car pile-up.
A woman who was driving one of the cars
has what could be a serious injury.
26-year-old female, conscious and breathing, complaining of neck pain.
I'm trying to keep her head very still.
Paul's taking no chances
and immediately immobilises the woman's neck.
He must keep her as still as possible until the medics arrive.
Still no pain? Not much pain?
Still experiencing pain.
I think there was a queue of vehicles
in front of me which was slowing down.
As I was slowing down I just heard a bang from the back of my car,
and my wife just shouted,
"Oh, we've been hit."
Looked like there was a pile-up of vehicles behind me.
Then I realised that the lady who was right behind me,
she was in great pain and holding her neck.
While Paul attends to the injured driver,
Rob needs to protect everyone at the scene.
It's now an agonising wait for other emergency services to arrive.
I've got a lane two closure out, so the scene is protected.
From first impression, it looks like somebody's slowed down
and they've all bumped into each other.
With a potential serious spinal injury on his hands,
Paul knows it may be necessary to cut the lady out of the vehicle.
The fire brigade are en route, so...
If they're needed. Hopefully they won't be.
They might put a collar on
and then you might be a bit better to get out yourself, OK?
For someone on the scene, though,
this whole process is taking too long.
Who's called a taxi?
Incredibly, one of the passengers has rung for a cab,
as she doesn't want to be late for work.
Oh, my God. Call a taxi to a bloomin' accident scene.
Thankfully, minutes later,
the paramedics arrive and begin to urgently assess the injured woman.
I want you to keep your head as still as you can, OK?
First of all, the pain was in the middle of her neck.
It's now moved,
which is why I took the decision to immobilise her C spine.
She's always been conscious and talking, but, yeah...
It's looking a little bit more dramatic than it first seemed.
With the fire service arriving,
there are now a dozen emergency service personnel on the scene
and a busy lane of Friday night traffic still thundering past.
Do you want us to stop that traffic?
Rob and Paul have got to close
the whole of the northbound carriageway of the A1
while the team gets to work.
With the woman in considerable pain,
they need to rescue her as soon as possible.
But the big question is how.
More than 200 miles north, near Edinburgh,
it's the job of Police Scotland officers to patrol
a very different section of the A1.
Just outside Tranent,
PCs Stewart Logan and Mike Nash
have spotted a driver who's causing concern.
Our attention was drawn just to this car that we've overtaken.
It was going awful slow.
And we've passed it, the driver is not wearing his seat belt
so we're going to get him in this lay-by here.
The reason we've stopped you today is, when we overtook you,
you weren't wearing your seat belt, OK?
I wonder why that was.
You're driving on a 70mph road with no seat belt on.
It's not very good, OK? Do you have your licence with you today, sir?
Stewart runs checks on the vehicle,
but has his suspicions about the driver.
I can't quite deduce if the smell, if it's an alcohol smell
or something other in the car,
so we'll do a breath test on him
just now, that'll determine whether it is that or not.
Have you had any alcohol in the last 20 minutes?
OK, I'll check what time we stopped you and go from there.
It's important in these circumstances that we confirm
when the person has last consumed alcohol,
because you have an illegal arrest, essentially,
if you breath-test a person too early.
He's had two pints.
In Scotland, two pints will put
the average Joe Public over the limit.
My feeling is that, um,
I think he's going to fail.
Time to see if Stewart's prediction is right...
You blow into it until I tell you to stop.
You don't need to blow your socks off.
Just a nice, steady breath, OK?
When you're ready. Keep going, keep going, keep going.
Stop - that's grand.
..but the result is surprising.
You are absolutely on the nail.
Basically, one microgram more and you would be arrested.
OK? The danger you have, sir,
is that if you've only had alcohol in the last 20 minutes or so,
your alcohol level may be increasing within your body.
It means Stewart wants to try and keep the driver off the road
for the next few hours.
We can't legally stop him driving because he, theoretically,
hasn't committed the offence yet.
However, given how recently he's consumed alcohol,
there's a high probability that his alcohol level is going up.
We have advised him that it would be strongly recommended
that he doesn't drive any longer for a period of time.
With the driver compliant,
Stewart gets him and his car off the A1 to the nearest town.
It's over to you. You make the judgment call
when you feel that you are in a better state,
but I would certainly give it at least a couple of hours
before you take to the wheel again.
OK? That's you, all right? All the best. Take care. Bye-bye.
For the driver, it's been a close shave.
He was doing approximately 40mph in a 70mph limit,
which isn't an offence, but it just draws attention to you.
We were right with our suspicion.
He was just lucky enough,
very, very lucky, that he didn't fail the roadside.
More than 200 miles south,
the A1 is in gridlock, and the emergency services
are dealing with a much more serious crisis.
Traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin
are still sorting out a multi-car pile-up
involving a woman with a potentially serious spinal injury.
-Do you want some more lights or are you all right?
They've been forced to shut the whole of the northbound carriageway
while they work out how to free her.
As you can see, there's a lot of equipment, a lot of people,
which is why traffic is stopped behind us.
That gives a big, safe working area for everybody.
The injured woman has now been immobile in her car
for over an hour.
It's imperative they make a decision on how to move her.
The lady is now having her C spine immobilised by the paramedic,
and because of the way the injury has presented,
the fire brigade are going to have to extract her with the roof off.
Neck pain can be an indicator of life-changing injuries,
so medics want the woman to be lifted on a spinal board.
Don't panic, darling. Just keep your head as still as possible.
After the windscreen is out,
they use the jaws of life to remove the roof.
Lots of noise. Don't worry.
The ambulance is just here.
With the roof finally off,
it takes six firefighters and five paramedics
to safely move the casualty
from her car and into the waiting ambulance.
Just letting you know an update.
The casualty is now out of the vehicle
and the fire brigade are packing away.
While the teams have been working to free the driver,
miles of static traffic has been building.
So, as the ambulance rushes to a nearby hospital,
the pressure is now on to get the carriageway clear
and everything moving again.
It's an inconvenience to t'public, that's just a given.
You can't do anything about that.
It's been slightly bigger than we expected at first,
so we've had to stop it for a lot longer than we first thought.
Hopefully it shouldn't be too much longer.
-As the fire service depart...
..Rob and Paul put the pieces of the stranded car back together
so it can be taken away.
Happy there? Bit of T-Cut, job's a good 'un.
Which leaves one final job for the traffic officers...
-..reopening the A1 as safely as possible.
We run a nice, slow rolling road block.
It gives the traffic time to build up steadily,
so traffic doesn't come wandering up behind them and cause another one.
Nearly two hours after they were the first to arrive,
Rob and Paul are the last to leave the scene,
but it will be a lot longer before the tailbacks clear behind them.
With nearly 2,500 pieces of debris collected from the A1 every year,
keeping the roads safe and clear
is a key priority for the teams who watch over it.
Near Morpeth in Northumberland,
the police are targeting the problem.
Monday morning, weekend's over.
PC Darren Lant is on the lookout for any vehicles
with dangerously unsecured loads
which could end up causing a serious accident.
Every time we see a heavy goods vehicle,
I'll have a look at it and see if the load is secure.
Imagine one of them coming off.
They're probably a half a tonne tyre, something like that.
And they're all strapped down, nice and secure.
Every time we'll make sure whatever load it's carrying is safe.
And stop it if we need to.
But a few miles up the road,
another driver's careless packing
is leaving other A1 motorists' lives at risk.
There's a van gone past,
but his back doors are wide open and he's only got a bit of rope or tape
or something over the doors.
Once Darren can get a proper look,
that's not the only thing wrong here.
So the first thing - no numberplate.
I cannot do a check on it because the numberplate
is probably on the door. You know, he's got
a load of stuff in there that's going to bounce all over the place.
A large metal frame sticking out is why the doors have been wedged open.
That appears to be secured tightly,
but everything else loose in the back is a potential hazard.
You've got boxes of tools, you've got bags of tools,
you've got all sorts lying around in there which clearly are insecure.
Someone driving along, they're doing 50, 60mph
behind this guy and then a cordless drill bounces out
the back of the truck and goes through the windscreen.
It's going to cause serious injury there,
it's going to cause a massive crash.
Some may say it's an exaggeration that it could cause a fatality,
but I don't see the exaggeration at all.
We'll get him stopped and we'll have a chat with him
and decide what we're going to do with the load.
For police officers like Darren,
driving with an unsecured load is a serious offence,
and motorists caught in the act can face an immediate fine
and points on their licence.
All right? How are you doing?
Is it your van, or a company van, or work's van or what?
-Come and have a chat with us for two seconds,
we'll have... I need to do a sequence as to why I've stopped you.
-Who loaded this?
You did. It's not the right load for this van, like, is it?
Cannot see your numberplate, where's your numberplate?
I'm assuming it's on this side of the door, is it?
You've got metal rods, you've got boxes...
..all sorts, tools lying all over the place.
The driver is cautioned, fined £100,
and will receive three points on his licence.
Had you put them in the front,
passenger's footwell or something - fine, not a problem,
but you cannot be driving up the A1 with tools loose like that
in the back of there. If you've got to brake for some reason,
all that is going to come out. Whether you agree with it or not,
-but do you understand what I'm saying?
With just a few miles left to go on his journey,
Darren is prepared to let him continue
if he can stash the dangerous items inside.
I know you cannot put the rods or anything in there,
but the stuff that's going to bounce around...
I can tie the rods up.
Yeah, if you can do that, that would be great.
It's all secured up now, is it?
-Aye, it's better.
-Excellent, that's great.
I'll follow you up round and then just make sure nowt bounces out.
Right, thank you.
It's not ideal, but I'm not going to prohibit him
from moving any further. He's done the best he can now,
certainly doesn't look like anything's going to fall out now,
but prior to stopping him,
that tool box was about to fall out, I think.
It certainly wouldn't have taken much longer.
After escorting the van to the next junction,
Darren is convinced he has
eliminated another potential danger from the A1.
Him safely off the A1 now,
there's less risk of any major injuries on the side roads.
He'll get the paperwork through the post for it.
But Darren is still on the lookout
for more vehicles which pose a risk to other motorists.
Nearly 150 miles south on the A1 near Doncaster in South Yorkshire,
traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin are back on patrol.
And it's not long before they spot some stranded travellers
who look like they could be in need of help.
Seen from the opposite carriageway,
we've got a broken-down bus, double-decker bus,
-on the hard shoulder.
-It's got kids on, and all.
We believe there's passengers on it.
37-38 on the Alpha A1 M, over.
The hard shoulder's a notoriously dangerous place to be,
and if there are children on board,
Paul and Rob need to get them off the road quickly.
Within minutes of looping back,
they're at the stranded double-decker.
And their concerns are confirmed.
What have we got? How many kids have you got on?
We have 46.
With over 40 five- and six-year-olds on the bus,
and traffic thundering up behind at 70mph,
the priority is to get them to safety.
But moving the kids off the bus isn't an option.
There's nowhere to coral them here, just up the banking,
so it's best to leave them on.
We've put a bit of traffic management down the hard shoulder,
and just make us a bit more visible to the travelling public.
While Rob closes the hard shoulder behind the bus,
Paul has another idea to protect the children.
Have you got any spare seats?
Right, can you move the kids from the back further forward,
just in case somebody runs into the back of the bus.
The kids are as safe as Paul can make them for now,
but it's not the end to the school trip anyone was expecting.
We've been to Yorkshire Wildlife Park
and the bus has now broken down
and we're stuck on the A1
-with some very agitated, hyperactive children.
-Where has everybody been today?
Wildlife park? And what sort of animals have we seen there?
-Lions? What noise does the lion make?
Wow. That's loud.
They should be back in Bradford by now.
Instead, they're still more than 35 miles away.
-We've been stuck about 25 minutes now?
-No, longer, love. Longer.
Who saw two meerkats?
Did you compare 'em?!
-No? Nobody got that one.
To everyone's relief,
the replacement double-decker arrives.
But now Paul needs to get 46 excited kids from one bus to another...
..just a few feet from fast-moving traffic.
Right, really sensibly.
Keep following. Thank you.
Bye. See you.
See you. Ta-ra. Bye. See you.
With the kids all safely on board, all they need is the driver.
They're all, Driver. You can go when you're ready.
-See you, kids! Have a good day!
-Thank you! Bye!
And they're finally on their way.
Paul and Rob's attention is now turning to moving the stranded bus.
Yeah, the difficult bit is done.
They were really good kids, I was impressed.
Mechanics have arrived with water for the bus's leaking radiator.
To get it started, they need to refill it.
He's got to get water in from that side.
But with the radiator cap just inches from fast-moving traffic,
Paul and Rob need to close a lane of the A1 to protect the mechanics.
Rob's gone back, he's called for signs and signals
to put a lane-one closure on.
There's no way he'll be able to get that in safely,
not with this traffic anyway.
Once Rob has safely coned off the area,
the mechanics can top up the radiator.
But to allow the bus to leave the A1 safely,
Paul needs to create a gap in the traffic using another
Highways England patrol.
1-3, yeah, can you get me an ETA for...
I believe it's Yankee-One-Two, to get to 37?
I'm thinking we might have to rolling block.
But first, they need to get things moving again.
Now, if we've still got this lane closure up,
by the time he gets here,
he's going to be stuck in the traffic
and he won't create us a gap. So, if we take this off now,
traffic starts flowing again and it facilitates us
to create a gap to get this double-decker off.
See our colleague now,
he's at the back of this traffic creating a rolling roadblock.
We can see him, he's created a gap,
so now we can move off with the bus.
Alpha, and for One-Two's benefit,
this vehicle has left the scene.
If he just keeps the block on, just till it clears.
Finally, nearly two hours after arriving,
Paul and Rob's work is done.
The 46 kids and their bus are all safely off the A1
and are on their way home.
Police officers on the A1 have an armoury of technology
on hand to help catch offenders.
In Northumberland, close to the town of Alnwick,
a suspicious vehicle has been flagged up.
PC Darren Lant is partway through his shift.
-His onboard camera, which is linked to
a comprehensive Automatic Numberplate Recognition System -
ANPR for short -
has picked up a suspect vehicle.
We've had a vehicle that went past that has no insurance,
which poses a significant risk,
which is why we need to try and see
if we can find it and get him stopped
and check that he has insurance.
But the information is that he's not.
This may well be him.
Darren spots the van up ahead.
Yeah, this is it.
All right? How are we doing?
Is this your van, is it?
-No, it's me mate's.
-It's your mate's, is it?
-Can I see your driving licence?
-I don't have owt with us, mate.
-Are you insured to drive the van, are you?
Come and have a chat with me for two seconds
in the back of the car and we'll get some details down.
We'll do a couple of checks, make sure everything is all right.
The driver doesn't own the van, but still claims everything is in order.
So I need to know which insurance you are using
-that allows you to drive this van.
Right. Does it allow you to drive other vehicles,
third-party, does it?
-Time for another check, and an anxious wait.
So the insurance on his vehicle, that expired in January, yeah?
Driving without insurance could mean six points on his licence
and a sizeable fine.
It's not looking good, mate, OK?
Your car, there's no insurance on that one, OK?
-That's with the Halifax insurance.
Well, they're saying there's no insurance on there,
and there's no insurance showing on this one,
so you're potentially driving with no insurance.
I'm going to caution you. You're not under arrest,
it's just something I've got to say
when I suspect an offence has been committed.
The next step is to seize the vehicle.
The owner will have seven working days to claim it.
If he doesn't, it could be sold or crushed.
What will happen is, we'll have to take it away
until such times that the owner can come and prove
that they do own it and they have insurance for it.
And the driver's problems, too, are piling up.
He now has no van and it looks like
he could be dropped off 50 miles
from his home in Durham.
We won't be taking you from here to Durham, like, all right?
I'll let you know that straightaway,
we'll not be taking you to Durham.
We'll take you to Alnwick, the next big town,
and you can arrange collection from there, all right?
40 minutes later, the van and driver are taken
to nearby Alnwick by another police officer.
I class it as a success.
It's another uninsured driver off the road,
but it goes to prove the importance
and the benefit and the value of ANPR fitted to the patrol cars.
In Alnwick, the driver has to work out
how to make the 50-mile journey home,
but that's not Darren's problem.
We're not taxis. We are a very limited and very expensive resource
and we're needed at all times,
and it just doesn't justify taking a patrol car off the road
for any sort of unnecessary time.
The van was finally returned to
its owner after he produced proof of insurance.
The motorist, Ivor Bennett, was later fined a total of £810
and received six points on his licence
for driving with no insurance.
And after their bus broke down during their school trip,
all the children finally had a safe journey back home.