Episode 11 A1: Britain's Longest Road


Episode 11

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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Transcript


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The A1 - Britain's longest road.

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Stretching almost 400 miles from the City of London

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to the heart of the Scottish capital.

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Connecting two nations and passing through 18 counties.

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It's an unrivalled highway

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used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day.

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We're going southbound down the A1 on the northbound carriageway.

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But not all journeys go to plan.

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TYRES SCREECH

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I thought, "I'm going to lose my life."

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Cars are coming close. It is the dangerous place to be.

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Lives can hang in the balance.

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The rear end of that vehicle, it's unrecognisable.

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This is actually the bodywork of the car.

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24 hours a day...

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It's not a safe place here.

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..there's a team of people who keep us safe from harm.

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The police...

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..response teams...

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We don't know if they've got the road closed,

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we don't know what happened.

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..and traffic officers...

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Keep going.

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..keeping Britain's most iconic road...

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-Get out!

-..on the move.

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CAR HORN BLARES

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Substantially damaged flatbed truck in lane two.

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The A1, the monster that it is, will start to return to normal.

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Coming up -

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the fight to cut a woman free from her car...

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Don't panic, darling.

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..without causing her further injury.

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Keep your head as still as possible.

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A motorist accused of drink-driving...

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Have you had any alcohol in the last 20 minutes?

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..is left high and dry...

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There's a high probability that his alcohol level is going up.

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..and a driver's loose load

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threatens to cause chaos on the carriageway.

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You've got boxes of tools, you've got bags of tools,

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It's going to cause serious injury there,

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it's going to cause a massive crash.

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Of the 10,000 incidents tackled by Highways England traffic officers

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on the A1 every year, one in five is an accident.

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One of the busiest parts of the road is a two-lane stretch

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between Doncaster and Ferrybridge.

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It's 7.40 on a Friday evening...

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..and Paul Day and Rob Larkin

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are responding to a call about an incident -

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but so far, they've few details to go on.

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The nature of the job is not known yet,

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but the cameras can see hazard lights,

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traffic's moving very slowly

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and indicating round an incident,

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so at the minute we're just going in blind, really.

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With very little information and no idea how serious the call is,

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Paul and Rob need to investigate quickly.

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It could be anything, this, from a medical emergency...

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-Could be just a flat tyre.

-It could be just a flat tyre.

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It could be anything minor from something just broken down

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to somebody being run over, for instance.

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As they get closer,

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the build-up of traffic suggests there's a serious incident.

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This is now an emergency.

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Get out t'way.

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And more information comes through about what lies ahead...

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Three-vehicle RTC reported.

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Ambulance en route.

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Rob and Paul are the first emergency team to arrive.

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It's a three-car pile-up.

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A woman who was driving one of the cars

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has what could be a serious injury.

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26-year-old female, conscious and breathing, complaining of neck pain.

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I'm trying to keep her head very still.

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Paul's taking no chances

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and immediately immobilises the woman's neck.

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He must keep her as still as possible until the medics arrive.

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Still no pain? Not much pain?

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MUMBLED REPLY

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Say again?

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Still experiencing pain.

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I think there was a queue of vehicles

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in front of me which was slowing down.

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As I was slowing down I just heard a bang from the back of my car,

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and my wife just shouted,

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"Oh, we've been hit."

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Looked like there was a pile-up of vehicles behind me.

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Then I realised that the lady who was right behind me,

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she was in great pain and holding her neck.

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While Paul attends to the injured driver,

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Rob needs to protect everyone at the scene.

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It's now an agonising wait for other emergency services to arrive.

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I've got a lane two closure out, so the scene is protected.

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From first impression, it looks like somebody's slowed down

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and they've all bumped into each other.

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With a potential serious spinal injury on his hands,

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Paul knows it may be necessary to cut the lady out of the vehicle.

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The fire brigade are en route, so...

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If they're needed. Hopefully they won't be.

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They might put a collar on

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and then you might be a bit better to get out yourself, OK?

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For someone on the scene, though,

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this whole process is taking too long.

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Who's called a taxi?

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Incredibly, one of the passengers has rung for a cab,

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as she doesn't want to be late for work.

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Oh, my God. Call a taxi to a bloomin' accident scene.

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Thankfully, minutes later,

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the paramedics arrive and begin to urgently assess the injured woman.

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I want you to keep your head as still as you can, OK?

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First of all, the pain was in the middle of her neck.

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It's now moved,

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which is why I took the decision to immobilise her C spine.

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She's always been conscious and talking, but, yeah...

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It's looking a little bit more dramatic than it first seemed.

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With the fire service arriving,

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there are now a dozen emergency service personnel on the scene

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and a busy lane of Friday night traffic still thundering past.

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Do you want us to stop that traffic?

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Rob and Paul have got to close

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the whole of the northbound carriageway of the A1

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while the team gets to work.

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With the woman in considerable pain,

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they need to rescue her as soon as possible.

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But the big question is how.

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More than 200 miles north, near Edinburgh,

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it's the job of Police Scotland officers to patrol

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a very different section of the A1.

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Just outside Tranent,

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PCs Stewart Logan and Mike Nash

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have spotted a driver who's causing concern.

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Our attention was drawn just to this car that we've overtaken.

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It was going awful slow.

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And we've passed it, the driver is not wearing his seat belt

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so we're going to get him in this lay-by here.

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Hello, sir.

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The reason we've stopped you today is, when we overtook you,

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you weren't wearing your seat belt, OK?

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I wonder why that was.

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You're driving on a 70mph road with no seat belt on.

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It's not very good, OK? Do you have your licence with you today, sir?

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Stewart runs checks on the vehicle,

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but has his suspicions about the driver.

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I can't quite deduce if the smell, if it's an alcohol smell

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or something other in the car,

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so we'll do a breath test on him

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just now, that'll determine whether it is that or not.

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Have you had any alcohol in the last 20 minutes?

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OK, I'll check what time we stopped you and go from there.

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It's important in these circumstances that we confirm

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when the person has last consumed alcohol,

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because you have an illegal arrest, essentially,

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if you breath-test a person too early.

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He's had two pints.

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In Scotland, two pints will put

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the average Joe Public over the limit.

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My feeling is that, um,

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I think he's going to fail.

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Time to see if Stewart's prediction is right...

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You blow into it until I tell you to stop.

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You don't need to blow your socks off.

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Just a nice, steady breath, OK?

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When you're ready. Keep going, keep going, keep going.

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Stop - that's grand.

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..but the result is surprising.

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You are absolutely on the nail.

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Basically, one microgram more and you would be arrested.

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OK? The danger you have, sir,

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is that if you've only had alcohol in the last 20 minutes or so,

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your alcohol level may be increasing within your body.

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It means Stewart wants to try and keep the driver off the road

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for the next few hours.

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We can't legally stop him driving because he, theoretically,

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hasn't committed the offence yet.

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However, given how recently he's consumed alcohol,

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there's a high probability that his alcohol level is going up.

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We have advised him that it would be strongly recommended

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that he doesn't drive any longer for a period of time.

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With the driver compliant,

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Stewart gets him and his car off the A1 to the nearest town.

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It's over to you. You make the judgment call

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when you feel that you are in a better state,

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but I would certainly give it at least a couple of hours

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before you take to the wheel again.

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OK? That's you, all right? All the best. Take care. Bye-bye.

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For the driver, it's been a close shave.

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He was doing approximately 40mph in a 70mph limit,

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which isn't an offence, but it just draws attention to you.

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We were right with our suspicion.

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He was just lucky enough,

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very, very lucky, that he didn't fail the roadside.

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More than 200 miles south,

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the A1 is in gridlock, and the emergency services

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are dealing with a much more serious crisis.

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Traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin

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are still sorting out a multi-car pile-up

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involving a woman with a potentially serious spinal injury.

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-Do you want some more lights or are you all right?

-Fine.

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They've been forced to shut the whole of the northbound carriageway

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while they work out how to free her.

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As you can see, there's a lot of equipment, a lot of people,

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which is why traffic is stopped behind us.

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That gives a big, safe working area for everybody.

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The injured woman has now been immobile in her car

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for over an hour.

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It's imperative they make a decision on how to move her.

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The lady is now having her C spine immobilised by the paramedic,

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and because of the way the injury has presented,

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the fire brigade are going to have to extract her with the roof off.

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Neck pain can be an indicator of life-changing injuries,

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so medics want the woman to be lifted on a spinal board.

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Don't panic, darling. Just keep your head as still as possible.

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After the windscreen is out,

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they use the jaws of life to remove the roof.

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Lots of noise. Don't worry.

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The ambulance is just here.

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With the roof finally off,

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it takes six firefighters and five paramedics

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to safely move the casualty

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from her car and into the waiting ambulance.

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Just letting you know an update.

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The casualty is now out of the vehicle

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and the fire brigade are packing away.

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While the teams have been working to free the driver,

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miles of static traffic has been building.

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So, as the ambulance rushes to a nearby hospital,

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the pressure is now on to get the carriageway clear

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and everything moving again.

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It's an inconvenience to t'public, that's just a given.

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You can't do anything about that.

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It's been slightly bigger than we expected at first,

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so we've had to stop it for a lot longer than we first thought.

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Hopefully it shouldn't be too much longer.

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-As the fire service depart...

-Got it?

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..Rob and Paul put the pieces of the stranded car back together

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so it can be taken away.

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Happy there? Bit of T-Cut, job's a good 'un.

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Which leaves one final job for the traffic officers...

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-Right, ready.

-..reopening the A1 as safely as possible.

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We run a nice, slow rolling road block.

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It gives the traffic time to build up steadily,

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so traffic doesn't come wandering up behind them and cause another one.

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Nearly two hours after they were the first to arrive,

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Rob and Paul are the last to leave the scene,

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but it will be a lot longer before the tailbacks clear behind them.

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With nearly 2,500 pieces of debris collected from the A1 every year,

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keeping the roads safe and clear

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is a key priority for the teams who watch over it.

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Near Morpeth in Northumberland,

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the police are targeting the problem.

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Monday morning, weekend's over.

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PC Darren Lant is on the lookout for any vehicles

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with dangerously unsecured loads

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which could end up causing a serious accident.

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Every time we see a heavy goods vehicle,

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I'll have a look at it and see if the load is secure.

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Imagine one of them coming off.

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They're probably a half a tonne tyre, something like that.

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And they're all strapped down, nice and secure.

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Every time we'll make sure whatever load it's carrying is safe.

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And stop it if we need to.

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But a few miles up the road,

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another driver's careless packing

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is leaving other A1 motorists' lives at risk.

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SIREN WAILS

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There's a van gone past,

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but his back doors are wide open and he's only got a bit of rope or tape

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or something over the doors.

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Once Darren can get a proper look,

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that's not the only thing wrong here.

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So the first thing - no numberplate.

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I cannot do a check on it because the numberplate

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is probably on the door. You know, he's got

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a load of stuff in there that's going to bounce all over the place.

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A large metal frame sticking out is why the doors have been wedged open.

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That appears to be secured tightly,

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but everything else loose in the back is a potential hazard.

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You've got boxes of tools, you've got bags of tools,

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you've got all sorts lying around in there which clearly are insecure.

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Someone driving along, they're doing 50, 60mph

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behind this guy and then a cordless drill bounces out

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the back of the truck and goes through the windscreen.

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It's going to cause serious injury there,

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it's going to cause a massive crash.

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Some may say it's an exaggeration that it could cause a fatality,

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but I don't see the exaggeration at all.

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We'll get him stopped and we'll have a chat with him

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and decide what we're going to do with the load.

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For police officers like Darren,

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driving with an unsecured load is a serious offence,

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and motorists caught in the act can face an immediate fine

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and points on their licence.

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All right? How are you doing?

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Is it your van, or a company van, or work's van or what?

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-Work van.

-Come and have a chat with us for two seconds,

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we'll have... I need to do a sequence as to why I've stopped you.

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-Who loaded this?

-Me.

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You did. It's not the right load for this van, like, is it?

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Cannot see your numberplate, where's your numberplate?

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I'm assuming it's on this side of the door, is it?

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You've got metal rods, you've got boxes...

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..all sorts, tools lying all over the place.

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The driver is cautioned, fined £100,

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and will receive three points on his licence.

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Had you put them in the front,

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passenger's footwell or something - fine, not a problem,

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but you cannot be driving up the A1 with tools loose like that

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in the back of there. If you've got to brake for some reason,

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all that is going to come out. Whether you agree with it or not,

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-but do you understand what I'm saying?

-Yeah.

-OK.

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With just a few miles left to go on his journey,

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Darren is prepared to let him continue

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if he can stash the dangerous items inside.

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I know you cannot put the rods or anything in there,

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but the stuff that's going to bounce around...

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I can tie the rods up.

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Yeah, if you can do that, that would be great.

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It's all secured up now, is it?

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-Aye, it's better.

-Excellent, that's great.

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I'll follow you up round and then just make sure nowt bounces out.

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Right, thank you.

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It's not ideal, but I'm not going to prohibit him

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from moving any further. He's done the best he can now,

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certainly doesn't look like anything's going to fall out now,

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but prior to stopping him,

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that tool box was about to fall out, I think.

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It certainly wouldn't have taken much longer.

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After escorting the van to the next junction,

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Darren is convinced he has

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eliminated another potential danger from the A1.

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Him safely off the A1 now,

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there's less risk of any major injuries on the side roads.

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He'll get the paperwork through the post for it.

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But Darren is still on the lookout

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for more vehicles which pose a risk to other motorists.

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Nearly 150 miles south on the A1 near Doncaster in South Yorkshire,

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traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin are back on patrol.

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And it's not long before they spot some stranded travellers

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who look like they could be in need of help.

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Bus.

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Seen from the opposite carriageway,

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we've got a broken-down bus, double-decker bus,

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-on the hard shoulder.

-It's got kids on, and all.

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We believe there's passengers on it.

0:18:540:18:56

37-38 on the Alpha A1 M, over.

0:18:560:18:59

The hard shoulder's a notoriously dangerous place to be,

0:18:590:19:03

and if there are children on board,

0:19:030:19:06

Paul and Rob need to get them off the road quickly.

0:19:060:19:09

Within minutes of looping back,

0:19:110:19:13

they're at the stranded double-decker.

0:19:130:19:15

And their concerns are confirmed.

0:19:170:19:20

Driver!

0:19:230:19:24

What have we got? How many kids have you got on?

0:19:240:19:27

We have 46.

0:19:270:19:31

With over 40 five- and six-year-olds on the bus,

0:19:330:19:36

and traffic thundering up behind at 70mph,

0:19:360:19:40

the priority is to get them to safety.

0:19:400:19:43

But moving the kids off the bus isn't an option.

0:19:430:19:48

There's nowhere to coral them here, just up the banking,

0:19:480:19:52

so it's best to leave them on.

0:19:520:19:54

We've put a bit of traffic management down the hard shoulder,

0:19:540:19:58

and just make us a bit more visible to the travelling public.

0:19:580:20:01

While Rob closes the hard shoulder behind the bus,

0:20:030:20:06

Paul has another idea to protect the children.

0:20:060:20:10

Have you got any spare seats?

0:20:100:20:11

Right, can you move the kids from the back further forward,

0:20:110:20:16

just in case somebody runs into the back of the bus.

0:20:160:20:18

The kids are as safe as Paul can make them for now,

0:20:180:20:21

but it's not the end to the school trip anyone was expecting.

0:20:210:20:25

We've been to Yorkshire Wildlife Park

0:20:260:20:28

and the bus has now broken down

0:20:280:20:30

and we're stuck on the A1

0:20:300:20:32

-with some very agitated, hyperactive children.

-Yes.

0:20:320:20:37

-Where has everybody been today?

-CHILDREN:

-Wildlife park!

0:20:370:20:41

Wildlife park? And what sort of animals have we seen there?

0:20:410:20:44

-Lions!

-Lions? What noise does the lion make?

0:20:440:20:47

-CHILDREN:

-R-R-Ra-argh!

0:20:470:20:50

Wow. That's loud.

0:20:500:20:52

They should be back in Bradford by now.

0:20:520:20:54

Instead, they're still more than 35 miles away.

0:20:540:20:58

-We've been stuck about 25 minutes now?

-No, longer, love. Longer.

0:20:580:21:04

Who saw two meerkats?

0:21:040:21:06

Did you compare 'em?!

0:21:060:21:08

-No? Nobody got that one.

-I did!

-You did?

0:21:080:21:11

TEACHER LAUGHS

0:21:110:21:13

To everyone's relief,

0:21:150:21:17

the replacement double-decker arrives.

0:21:170:21:19

But now Paul needs to get 46 excited kids from one bus to another...

0:21:190:21:25

Come on!

0:21:250:21:27

..just a few feet from fast-moving traffic.

0:21:270:21:30

WHISTLE BLOWS

0:21:300:21:32

Right, really sensibly.

0:21:320:21:34

Keep following. Thank you.

0:21:340:21:36

Bye. See you.

0:21:390:21:41

See you. Ta-ra. Bye. See you.

0:21:410:21:44

With the kids all safely on board, all they need is the driver.

0:21:440:21:50

They're all, Driver. You can go when you're ready.

0:21:500:21:52

-See you, kids! Have a good day!

-Thank you! Bye!

0:21:540:21:57

Cheers, boss.

0:21:570:21:59

And they're finally on their way.

0:21:590:22:01

Paul and Rob's attention is now turning to moving the stranded bus.

0:22:050:22:10

Yeah, the difficult bit is done.

0:22:100:22:13

They were really good kids, I was impressed.

0:22:130:22:16

Mechanics have arrived with water for the bus's leaking radiator.

0:22:160:22:20

To get it started, they need to refill it.

0:22:200:22:23

He's got to get water in from that side.

0:22:230:22:26

But with the radiator cap just inches from fast-moving traffic,

0:22:260:22:30

Paul and Rob need to close a lane of the A1 to protect the mechanics.

0:22:300:22:34

Rob's gone back, he's called for signs and signals

0:22:340:22:37

to put a lane-one closure on.

0:22:370:22:39

There's no way he'll be able to get that in safely,

0:22:390:22:41

not with this traffic anyway.

0:22:410:22:43

Once Rob has safely coned off the area,

0:22:430:22:46

the mechanics can top up the radiator.

0:22:460:22:48

But to allow the bus to leave the A1 safely,

0:22:480:22:52

Paul needs to create a gap in the traffic using another

0:22:520:22:56

Highways England patrol.

0:22:560:22:58

1-3, yeah, can you get me an ETA for...

0:22:580:23:01

I believe it's Yankee-One-Two, to get to 37?

0:23:010:23:04

I'm thinking we might have to rolling block.

0:23:040:23:07

But first, they need to get things moving again.

0:23:070:23:10

Now, if we've still got this lane closure up,

0:23:100:23:12

by the time he gets here,

0:23:120:23:14

he's going to be stuck in the traffic

0:23:140:23:16

and he won't create us a gap. So, if we take this off now,

0:23:160:23:21

traffic starts flowing again and it facilitates us

0:23:210:23:24

to create a gap to get this double-decker off.

0:23:240:23:28

See our colleague now,

0:23:300:23:32

he's at the back of this traffic creating a rolling roadblock.

0:23:320:23:35

We can see him, he's created a gap,

0:23:350:23:37

so now we can move off with the bus.

0:23:370:23:40

Alpha, and for One-Two's benefit,

0:23:400:23:42

this vehicle has left the scene.

0:23:420:23:44

If he just keeps the block on, just till it clears.

0:23:440:23:47

Finally, nearly two hours after arriving,

0:23:480:23:52

Paul and Rob's work is done.

0:23:520:23:54

The 46 kids and their bus are all safely off the A1

0:23:540:23:57

and are on their way home.

0:23:570:24:00

Police officers on the A1 have an armoury of technology

0:24:070:24:11

on hand to help catch offenders.

0:24:110:24:13

In Northumberland, close to the town of Alnwick,

0:24:130:24:16

a suspicious vehicle has been flagged up.

0:24:160:24:20

PC Darren Lant is partway through his shift.

0:24:200:24:24

-Tango-Six.

-His onboard camera, which is linked to

0:24:240:24:28

a comprehensive Automatic Numberplate Recognition System -

0:24:280:24:32

ANPR for short -

0:24:320:24:33

has picked up a suspect vehicle.

0:24:330:24:36

SIREN WAILS

0:24:360:24:38

We've had a vehicle that went past that has no insurance,

0:24:380:24:41

which poses a significant risk,

0:24:410:24:43

which is why we need to try and see

0:24:430:24:45

if we can find it and get him stopped

0:24:450:24:47

and check that he has insurance.

0:24:470:24:49

But the information is that he's not.

0:24:490:24:52

This may well be him.

0:24:560:24:58

Darren spots the van up ahead.

0:24:580:25:00

Yeah, this is it.

0:25:010:25:02

All right? How are we doing?

0:25:110:25:13

Is this your van, is it?

0:25:130:25:14

-No, it's me mate's.

-It's your mate's, is it?

0:25:140:25:16

-Can I see your driving licence?

-I don't have owt with us, mate.

0:25:160:25:19

-Are you insured to drive the van, are you?

-Yeah.

0:25:190:25:21

Come and have a chat with me for two seconds

0:25:210:25:23

in the back of the car and we'll get some details down.

0:25:230:25:25

We'll do a couple of checks, make sure everything is all right.

0:25:250:25:28

The driver doesn't own the van, but still claims everything is in order.

0:25:300:25:34

So I need to know which insurance you are using

0:25:340:25:37

-that allows you to drive this van.

-Halifax, mine.

0:25:370:25:40

Right. Does it allow you to drive other vehicles,

0:25:400:25:42

third-party, does it?

0:25:420:25:43

-Yeah.

-All right.

-Time for another check, and an anxious wait.

0:25:430:25:47

So the insurance on his vehicle, that expired in January, yeah?

0:25:490:25:52

Driving without insurance could mean six points on his licence

0:25:520:25:56

and a sizeable fine.

0:25:560:25:58

It's not looking good, mate, OK?

0:25:590:26:01

Your car, there's no insurance on that one, OK?

0:26:010:26:04

-That's with the Halifax insurance.

-Right.

0:26:040:26:05

Well, they're saying there's no insurance on there,

0:26:050:26:08

and there's no insurance showing on this one,

0:26:080:26:10

so you're potentially driving with no insurance.

0:26:100:26:12

I'm going to caution you. You're not under arrest,

0:26:120:26:14

it's just something I've got to say

0:26:140:26:15

when I suspect an offence has been committed.

0:26:150:26:17

The next step is to seize the vehicle.

0:26:170:26:19

The owner will have seven working days to claim it.

0:26:190:26:22

If he doesn't, it could be sold or crushed.

0:26:220:26:26

What will happen is, we'll have to take it away

0:26:260:26:28

until such times that the owner can come and prove

0:26:280:26:30

that they do own it and they have insurance for it.

0:26:300:26:33

And the driver's problems, too, are piling up.

0:26:350:26:38

He now has no van and it looks like

0:26:380:26:40

he could be dropped off 50 miles

0:26:400:26:42

from his home in Durham.

0:26:420:26:44

We won't be taking you from here to Durham, like, all right?

0:26:440:26:47

I'll let you know that straightaway,

0:26:470:26:49

we'll not be taking you to Durham.

0:26:490:26:50

We'll take you to Alnwick, the next big town,

0:26:500:26:52

and you can arrange collection from there, all right?

0:26:520:26:55

40 minutes later, the van and driver are taken

0:26:570:27:01

to nearby Alnwick by another police officer.

0:27:010:27:04

I class it as a success.

0:27:040:27:05

It's another uninsured driver off the road,

0:27:050:27:08

but it goes to prove the importance

0:27:080:27:09

and the benefit and the value of ANPR fitted to the patrol cars.

0:27:090:27:12

In Alnwick, the driver has to work out

0:27:150:27:17

how to make the 50-mile journey home,

0:27:170:27:20

but that's not Darren's problem.

0:27:200:27:23

We're not taxis. We are a very limited and very expensive resource

0:27:230:27:26

and we're needed at all times,

0:27:260:27:29

and it just doesn't justify taking a patrol car off the road

0:27:290:27:35

for any sort of unnecessary time.

0:27:350:27:38

The van was finally returned to

0:27:420:27:43

its owner after he produced proof of insurance.

0:27:430:27:47

The motorist, Ivor Bennett, was later fined a total of £810

0:27:470:27:52

and received six points on his licence

0:27:520:27:56

for driving with no insurance.

0:27:560:27:58

And after their bus broke down during their school trip,

0:27:580:28:02

all the children finally had a safe journey back home.

0:28:020:28:05

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