AVAN driver was spotted texting at the wheel doing 60mph during a police crackdown on dangerous driving.

Traffic cops targeting rogue motorists also stopped nine people driving without seatbelts in only an hour of an operation to make south Essex roads safer.

Officers from Essex Police’s casualty reduction unit have been patrolling main routes over the past week in a bid educate drivers, reduce accidents and catch criminals in the act.

The crackdown follows four fatal road traffic accidents and 106 serious incidents across the county since April.

Sgt Simon Willsher, who has been leading the operation, said: “We have between four and six units out as part of this operation, focusing on the main hot spots – the A13, A127, town centres and M25.”

Police have been particularly looking out for motorists using mobile phones, driving without seatbelts, speeding, drink-driving and those who tailgate.

Sgt Willsher said: “We do get people saying to us, why aren’t you out catching people committing so-called ‘serious crimes?’ “Then we have drivers saying it is their choice to drive without a seatbelt. But we are really trying to educate people that if they are in an accident, their seatbelt will probably save their life.

“I have been to a number of accidents over the years, some involving children and babies, which would not have been fatal if the driver and passengers had only put their seatbelts on.

“As police officers, it is upsetting and frustrating having to speak to victims’ families and attending inquests, knowing if that person had just put their seatbelt on, they may still be here.”

Drivers are not currently given penalty points for driving without a seatbelt, but they can be fined £100.

Alternatively, they can opt to take part in a £37 online course aimed at teaching them the importance of buckling up.

The World Cup means traffic officers are also on the lookout for people driving while over the limit – especially first thing in the morning.

Sgt Willsher added: “Because the games are being held in Brazil, a lot of the matches do not start until 11pm, so people staying up to watch them may be drinking until gone 1am.

“They go to bed and may be up at 6am for work. People think just because they have slept, they are no longer over the limit, but a number will be.

“It’s worth pointing out we do a lot of work with Crimestoppers, which regularly has members of the public contact them about prolific drinkdrivers.

“Many of the people who get in contact are frustrated and often quite frightened that this person will have an accident and injure themselves or others.”

Another part of the operation is targeting people driving aggressively or dangerously, such as tailgating or overtaking recklessly.

Sgt Willsher said: “In these instances, we talk to drivers and try to establish why they are driving in such a way. Is it a lack of skill or is it their attitude?

“There is the option of a fine, or they can opt to attend a course which can either help them improve or try to knock a bit of a chip off their shoulder in the way they treat other motorists on the road.”

Sgt Willsher said one of the most important parts of the operation is helping those they stop to become better drivers.

He said: “At the end of the day, we want to prevent accidents.

“I draw the analogy with criminals.

They do not just wake up a boy scout one day and a criminal the next.

“It’s the same with traffic offences.

“A number of people have previous convictions for going through red lights and using a mobile phone before they are involved in something more serious, such as a serious crash or fatality.

“It’s about us getting to them to break that downward spiral.”