Documentary series centred on the A1. A suspected stolen vehicle leads police to pull over a driver who is found to be over the drink-drive limit.
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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 a 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 whether they've got the road closed,
-we don't know what's 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, it'll start returning to normal.
..police pull a suspected stolen car.
We've had a report this car is stolen.
And its driver lands in double trouble.
Have you been drinking, mate? I can smell drink on you.
A truck breakdown...
We've got a live lane coming out here.
Just watch traffic coming there.
..puts lives on the line.
Keep going! Steady!
And the restaurant girls who serve up specials every day for A1 motorists.
Yeah, they make you feel really welcome. That's why you keep coming back.
The Great North Road passes through 18 different counties,
more than any other highway in the UK.
15 different police forces patrol it.
One of their key roles is to crack down on those using the road
to plan and carry out crimes.
Just south of Newcastle,
PC Alan Keenleyside is lying in wait for the latest suspect.
We're on the A1, we've got a vehicle over on the A19.
So we're trying to shut off any access south.
Alan has intelligence to suggest
a suspected stolen car is heading south
on the A1, but tonight visibility could hamper the operation.
The problem is, with the traffic this time of night,
it's quite hard to spot registration numbers.
It's a very dirty time of year.
The salt and things on the roads.
But even in the gloom of a wet winter night...
Yeah, I think it's just gone past us.
It was Alpha-Foxtrot.
..Alan's eyes don't let him down.
It was a little Fiesta, looked like red or orange,
starting A-F. That's all I saw.
Southbound. I'm just trying to see where it's gone.
12-34, it was one of around 12, 15 vehicles
that went past in a batch.
I certainly can't see it. I'm just heading towards the 690 now.
Alan needs to check the registration plate with the control room
to confirm that he has the right car.
Yeah, that could be it. Southbound, approaching 690.
No attempt to stop. Low risk. Speed seven-zero.
It's definitely the right car, but Alan has to wait to make his move.
Backup is en route, but if this driver gets spooked,
it could end in a risky high-speed chase.
Weather's dry. He's moved to lane two, back into lane one.
Approaching the one-mile marker for the 690.
Then, as the car turns off the A1...
MUFFLED RADIO MESSAGE
..Alan gets a break.
Approaching red light now at the 690.
That's him there.
Stand slack, all right?
Take a seat in my car, momentarily, all right?
We've had a report that this car is stolen.
All right, take a seat, we'll find out what's going on.
Vehicle stopped. No injuries, no damage.
Have you got the keys, bud?
Erm, aye, it's a keyless entry thing.
Keyless entry. Two seconds.
We'll sort it. We'll get around
off the slip road and we'll sort it there.
To minimise disruption to the A1,
the suspected stolen car needs to be moved to a quieter location.
What's your occupation? What's your job?
But then, as Alan starts to question the driver,
he becomes aware of another potential breach of the law.
Have you been drinking, mate?
-I smell alcohol on you.
I'm not saying you're over the limit.
All I'm saying is, I can smell drink on you.
The officers have pulled off a textbook interception tonight.
But stopping the driver is only the beginning.
I'm going to caution you. You do not have to say anything but it may harm
your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which
you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.
I now require you to provide a specimen of breath,
as I have reasonable cause to suspect you of driving
a motor vehicle having alcohol in your body.
And that's because I can smell intoxicating liquor on your breath.
Alan now has not only a potential stolen car to deal with,
but a drink-driver, too.
It's going to be a testing shift.
Statistically, there is an increased risk of being involved in
a serious accident on the A1 in wet and foggy conditions.
It means traffic officers need to be
extra vigilant when patrolling in bad weather.
Now, in South Yorkshire,
Paul Day and Rob Larkin
are battling through a miserable January rush hour.
We're just passing the Texaco garage, 38-39.
On the Alpha - over.
'One-Three, we've had an update from the police,
'the driver of the LGV was apparently out in the carriageway.'
Weather conditions today are dark, wet, raining,
and a bit of spray on the road as well,
so it's making visibility quite limited.
As day breaks, they receive a report
that a broken-down lorry is blocking the southbound carriageway
just past the junction for the M62.
We've got a further report now that it's a container wagon in lane one.
Officers deal with around 4,500 breakdowns a year.
A third of them are where a vehicle stops in a live lane,
posing a real danger to all other motorists.
No traffic, no hard shoulder.
So what we do is we set it up, ready for a lane stop.
And...there it is.
We've got a live lane coming out here.
Just watch traffic coming there. Yeah?
With traffic building quickly,
it's vital the officers work as fast as possible.
The rain and poor visibility are only making matters worse.
-'Ey up, drive?
What's wrong with it, mate?
What we'll do...
-Leave it running.
-We'll come round the front of you,
we'll get somebody round the front of you
and we'll get you onto the hard shoulder, clear this lane.
This vehicle's gearbox has failed.
He does have air. Do we have a second unit can come and help us?
Rob and Paul are under pressure to reopen the lane.
A recovery truck is en route, but that could waste valuable time.
So a backup Highways England vehicle is the quickest option.
If you stay in your cab, we'll sort it out.
I'll give you the thumbs up when he's ready.
Knock your brake off and we're going there.
The other officers arrive within minutes,
meaning the stranded lorry can be moved out of harm's way.
Keep going. Steady.
Probably 40 tonne. Shifted nice and easy.
He's just talking to his boss now for a recovery.
We'll wait for that. And he'll get back to us in a second.
With the lorry shifted and recovery en route,
Paul and Rob can now concentrate on getting the traffic flowing again.
Hotel-Alpha-Charlie-Echo-One-Three. We can go back to 42 as well.
Thanks to Charlie-Xray-One-Two.
Keep your eye on traffic behind you. Don't want owt to go wrong.
-Are you happy?
-Thanks for your help.
No worries, cock. Thank you.
With the road reopened and traffic flowing,
there's just one thing left to do.
HE HONKS HORN
Translated - "Put your hazard lights on!"
But the lorry driver doesn't understand.
It's been a successful morning.
He's got it, by Jove.
Rob and Paul's swift action means the A1 has been reopened within
20 minutes, and the result is the danger for drivers
has been kept to a minimum.
Last year, more than 500 vehicles were stolen across
the Northumbria Police area.
Just off the A1, ten miles south of Newcastle,
officers are still dealing with a car that's been reported as stolen.
You're not under arrest, all right?
You're detained until we can find out what's gone on.
But PC Alan Keenleyside also believes
the suspect may have been drinking,
so wants to conduct a breathalyser.
But while he's sitting in the police car on his own,
the driver puts something in his mouth.
What have you just put in your mouth?
A pound coin? Why?
There's a common myth that sucking on a coin can change
the alcohol reading on the test.
You've just swallowed a pound coin?
So is it for the drink?
After reading the suspect his rights,
Alan conducts the breathalyser.
Blow nicely into that. After three or four seconds you'll hear
an audible click and I'll tell you to stop.
Blow. Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going...
Stop! Well done.
48. The legal limit's 35.
You are not much over but you're over.
The legal limit's 35. You've blown 48.
The breath test indicates the proportion of alcohol
in your breath exceeds the prescribed limit.
I'm arresting you and taking you to...
Joe, where's the nearest police station?
Although the car was reported as stolen a few weeks ago,
the driver claims he got it from his parents as a Christmas present.
At the minute, it is. At the minute,
we've got to think that car's stolen.
My control room operator has told me it's a stolen car.
Right? We'll crack on and make those inquiries
while we're processing you in custody.
As the suspect is taken away, Alan searches the car.
This receipt here is from the 10th of the 1st 2016.
Over a year old and that was in there.
Now, if this vehicle had been legitimately sold,
it's very rare that you find receipts
and bits of paperwork left from the previous owner.
If it's legitimately sold,
it's generally stripped of everything.
You know? So, erm, yeah.
We'll leave all this here. We've had a quick look.
And this will be uplifted and taken back to our secure pound,
and we'll do some further inquiries about it.
The suspected stolen car will now be seized
until police can establish who it really does belong to.
Stolen property. It's always nice to get that property returned
to the rightful owners. There's pretty much
nothing more satisfying than that.
For Alan and the other officers,
it's been a successful operation all round.
I've just contacted my colleagues
that took the driver of the vehicle into custody
following his failed breath test at the roadside.
The legal limit's 35. He blew 48.
But, actually, by the time you get to custody,
sometimes 48 was right on that level where
it's likely - if he's coming down,
if it's been a while since he had a drink -
that level could be coming down to a point
where no further action's going to be taken against him.
However, in this particular case,
it appears he's actually going the other way.
So he's recently had a drink,
his alcohol level's continuing to climb,
and I think my colleague said he'd blown 57 in custody.
So that's a good, firm charge for driving with alcohol level
above the limit.
We see the fatal road accidents.
We see the misery that drink-drivers,
drug-drivers bring to families.
So, actually, to catch a drink-driver,
to get them off the street,
to get them in front of the courts,
it's hugely rewarding for any traffic cop,
anywhere in this country.
On the A1 south of Retford in Nottinghamshire,
it's the start of a busy afternoon
at one of Britain's most iconic roadside restaurants.
Ashley, Danielle and Mary have all got
plenty of Little Chef experience.
Are you all right today, love?
Yeah, are you? What time are you on till?
Three. What time are you on?
I left school when I was 16.
I actually applied for the Burger King.
There used to be a Burger King next door,
but then they asked me to come into here
and I've been here ever since.
It's just so nice cos you don't think,
"Oh, God, I've got to go to work."
You're just on with your friends.
I fit in there perfect.
My dream job would be to be 6'2" and be a model.
But I'm not even five foot. There's not much that people can do
when you're this size. When you're getting mistaken
for a nine-year-old girl.
The restaurant caters for more than 45,000 A1 users every year.
The A1 is literally there.
When there's accidents outside, or the road gets really busy,
we seem to find that everyone comes in here
because they don't want to sit in the traffic or whatever.
There's always accidents. Always. No matter what.
The A1 is always having them.
And there's one dish the waitresses serve more than any other.
-Nearly 2,000 a day across the country.
There you go.
Our most popular meal on the menu is an Olympic Breakfast.
Prince Harry, was it? It was in the paper.
When he'd gone to one of the Little Chefs
just for an Olympic Breakfast.
So, obviously, we are quite famous for that.
Bacon, bacon, egg, beans and beans.
I can be cooking about 1,000 Olympics a day sometimes.
It feels like that, anyway. Doesn't it, Mary?
If you get an Olympic at night, say, like, quarter to ten at night,
they just walk in and want an Olympic breakfast.
-Mary's like, "You could have had a jacket potato."
It's just one of the dishes that attract many A1 regulars.
Thank you very much, Ashley.
It's OK, my sweet pea. We've got quite a few regulars.
Table three. They're regulars.
Danielle's friend, the lady, she comes in to have a chicken platter.
Mr Bruce either has his scampi or his gammon.
Oh, look, back again.
Will always has a Jubilee Pancake at night-time.
Or he'll have a banana split. And he makes us do the banana split.
And he's so picky. He likes his banana split down the middle,
with three lumps of ice cream and squirty...
He's so picky. He's SO picky.
Pass this Little Chef every day going to and from work,
so it's handy to call in.
Breakfast, dinner, and tea sometimes.
-Hello, my dear.
-And Ashley's front-of-house charm works wonders.
Got to know them now. Especially Ashley.
She is really funny. Really funny.
Have a lot of banter with her.
'Yeah, they make you feel really welcome.
'That's why you keep coming back.'
I mainly, like, sit people down,
take their orders and have just, like, general chitchat with them.
Which ends up not general chitchat, it ends up like gossip.
-So much gossip.
-Everyone who comes in asks for Ashley because,
obviously, she's the face of the place.
Do you want toast or fried bread?
They never know my name, because I'm always in here.
I have to make sure she's on duty when we're coming up.
So... But it just breaks up the journey.
There was a guy that come in a couple of weeks ago and he was like,
"Is Ashley not here?" And he was like,
"Tell her I've been asking about her
-"and I'll pop down soon to see her."
-Don't make me blush.
He seemed to know you. He seemed to know you pretty well.
I can't remember, there's been that many.
And despite the busy shifts,
working at the restaurant is a job the girls love.
Once, when you took...
You went over to take an order and the person said...
He was having a go at his kid for not revising,
and he said,
"You've got to revise otherwise you'll end up somewhere like this."
I've got everything that I want.
-Don't we drive nice cars?
-We don't go without.
No, we don't go without. So it's a perfect job to have, I think.
You get good days and bad days, obviously.
But I probably wouldn't have done it for ten years
if I thought it was that bad, would I?
More than 100 times a year,
the A1's traffic officers are called to help fix this major road.
One of the main defects they face
are potholes, which can pose a serious risk to driver safety.
On a two-lane section of the road near Doncaster,
Paul Day and Rob Larkin have received
a report about an urgent repair which is needed on the carriageway.
What we found is a pothole that needed immediate repair.
We've called it in to contractors, who've deployed a unit.
We've done a bit of a liaise and a bit of a plan.
we're going to pull out into traffic and block the carriageway.
That'll allow the contractor to repair the pothole.
One small pothole can lead to a tragedy,
so even though closing the road will still cause huge disruption,
the works are essential.
If a motorbike hit that pothole then it could literally
throw the rider straight off
into the path of oncoming traffic.
Yeah. You assess the potential against the impact to traffic
that's travelling. And it's better to have it repaired straightaway.
-A necessary evil.
-A necessary evil, yeah.
One-Three, we're right behind Yankee-Uniform-One-Two.
And we're going to block traffic now - over.
Paul and Rob immediately shut down both lanes.
Just give us a minute. There's repairing a pothole
and there's also...something that needs to go on further up.
Not be two seconds.
So what we've done there is, we've utilised the...
heavy traffic to create a gap.
We've stopped traffic. We've spoken to drivers to let them know
how we're going to do and what we're doing.
Meanwhile, further down the road, repairs begin on the hole.
What we've done here is created
a safety buffer between the contractors
working in the main carriageway and the traffic behind.
Yes, it inconveniences for a period of time,
but at least everybody is safe doing their job.
With standing traffic mounting, there's no time to lose.
In fact, he's just running over the tarmac now.
Just to push it down into the hole.
So, it shouldn't be too long as it's completed.
After just six minutes, the hole is fixed.
There's just enough time to pick up some more dangerous debris.
Contractors will take care of that later.
Why did you have to move that?
Just cos it was there.
All received. Just about to release the block.
Rob and Paul's drive-off is a signal
for the traffic behind to start moving.
Yeah. 1-3. We've started rolling.
But just as they set off again,
the officers receive a report of another lane closure just ahead.
It's vital the traffic doesn't gather speed too quickly.
So Rob and Paul need to create
a rolling roadblock past the incident.
That's going to cause a problem.
So, what happened there was,
we put the block on as they were turning to put the lane closure on.
We've released to traffic nice and steadily into the closure.
Just pre-planning stuff,
making sure that everything we've got covered, going on, was covered,
so that members of the public didn't just come upon something
that they didn't know was there.
And it all went rather well.
Spanning nearly 400 miles,
the A1 passes through bleak countryside and built-up cities.
Different parts of the road have different speed limits imposed,
from 30 to 70mph.
For the Northumbria Police force,
the A1 is their biggest and busiest road.
So cracking down on speeding motorists
is a big part of an officer's job.
In the last year, the police have prosecuted more than 57,000 drivers
for speeding offences.
And now, just a few miles north of Newcastle,
PC Alan Keenleyside is tracking the latest culprit.
Just had a car in front...
He moved into lane two really quite harshly.
I'm just going to follow him for a little bit.
I want to see what his manner of driving is like.
The driver is heading south towards Gateshead
and doesn't seem to have noticed Alan in his rear-view mirror.
I'm quite happy to move backward and forward into lane one.
What I don't want is a member of the public
to get between me and that car.
But it seems Alan may have spoken too soon.
I'll just flash the blues.
By the looks of it, this vehicle is going to be
taking the slip road off. I'm going to have a little word.
As the driver enters Gateshead,
he's still unaware that Alan is following him.
30, and he's doing 44 in he 30s.
As the driver pulls into the car park,
Alan makes his move.
I was following you at 84 on the A1 from Seaton Burn.
Then when we came through he 30s you were doing 44 mile an hour
in a 30-mile-an-hour limit.
Is there any reason why you've travelled like that
all the way down? OK.
Do you have any identification?
I'll just check your driving licence, then.
-Whereabouts are you heading to?
All right. No worries.
-Is it your vehicle? Is it?
-Yes, it is.
-OK. No worries.
I'm just going to check you on the computer.
Come take a seat in my car. Thank you.
The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine
and three penalty points.
Alan is keen to show the driver evidence of his erratic driving.
What alerted us to you, right?
When you came on at Seaton Burn onto the A1,
you moved quite violently from lane one into lane two.
I'm following you there. All right?
It's already sitting at 77.
Then your speed increased.
Can you see the bottom right-hand corner there?
All right. OK?
It is what it is on that one.
When we've come in the Metrocentre,
which is just the slip road up here before I asked you to stop,
we've come into a 30-mile-an-hour limit
and your vehicle in front there is doing 44. OK?
And that's the reasons why you've been stopped here today.
I'm just going to check you on the system.
Do you have any points on your licence or anything?
Alan discovers the man is a professional lorry driver
so more points on his licence could lead to him losing his job.
Alan has a very difficult decision to make.
We could issue... I don't know
if you've ever heard of a section 59 warning?
I'm not going to do that.
I'd like to think that this word tonight is sufficient.
At the end of the day, you're an HGV driver.
-It's your living.
You don't need things like that coming your way.
So, words of advice.
So, lesson learned. Keep it down.
You never know when we're there. And we'll leave it at that tonight.
-Thank you very much.
No worries at all. There's your card back and we'll let you out.
The driver realises he's been very lucky
to get away without any points.
When I got stopped, I was gutted because...
I was in the wrong. Could have lost my job.
I'm an HGV driver so...
I should know better, really.
The police officer explained everything and he was fair with us.
He could have given us a lot worse than what I've got off with.
In speeding cases,
police officers like Alan are allowed to use their discretion.
Depending on the circumstances, they can issue fines and make arrests.
Or they can take a more lenient approach.
That chap there is a prime example of somebody who,
he seemed like a thoroughly nice person.
He's got the right attitude for me. He was sitting there.
Hands up. He wasn't arguing.
If he'd argued the case, it's all on video,
and really it's down to the officer how he wants to do it
and I thought, in that situation, yeah,
words of advice is probably going to suffice.
The motorist suspected of drink-driving
pleaded guilty to the offence.
He was disqualified from driving for 36 months
and fined £235 including costs.
After police inquiries, the red Fiesta was returned to the driver,
who was considered to be its rightful owner.
A suspected stolen vehicle leads police to pull over a driver who is found to be over the drink-drive limit, and a truck breakdown at rush hour puts motorists' safety in jeopardy.