Police are using specially-adapted spy cars to catch drivers who eat, apply make-up or do anything else illegal at the wheel.
Officers in the Greater Manchester area are conducting a trial with two of the modified Smart cars, which have CCTV cameras fitted to telescopic masts on their roofs, in a bid to cut road deaths.
But motoring groups claim the mobile cameras will infringe drivers’ rights, as they wouldn’t know they had been caught out until a fine arrived in the post.
Nigel Humphries, from the Association of British Drivers, said: ‘This is a total infringement. They might as well put something in cars to test what drivers are thinking – to see if they are concentrating on the road or thinking about something else.
‘Apart from that it’s going to be counter-productive. While the camera is looking into cars, other motorists could be driving erratically and causing a danger on the roads.’
Distracted Manchester drivers are said to have been involved in more than 400 accidents in the past two years, leading to at least 25 deaths or serious injuries.
Karen Delaney from DriveSafe, the road safety group responsible for the scheme, said: ‘Many vehicles are now better equipped than offices or homes, with the latest technology in satellite navigation, telecommunications and state-of-the-art music systems all to hand.
‘Add in other distractions such as complex dashboard instrumentation, a hot cup of coffee and a conversation with other vehicle occupants, and it is no wonder that some drivers are not paying attention.’
Motorists who are caught driving erratically could face a £30 fine. Those caught using their mobile phone at the wheel could get a £60 fine and three points on their licence.