Keen eye on drivers

Drivers attempting to avoid a booze bus breath test with a sneaky detour are about to discover the far-reaching gaze of law enforcement.

From next month the Latrobe Highway Patrol will ramp up its efforts to combat driver impairment as part of a 12-month operation.

With funding from the Transport Accident Commission, police will bolster their regular breath test operations with extra members in satellite vehicles patrolling the nearby area to catch people who stop short or drive away from a booze bus.

“Communication between people is fantastic as we know,” Latrobe Highway Patrol Sergeant Clint Wilson said.

“The bush telegraph is very capable of detecting where the booze bus is and getting the message out there.

“We’ll be doing more to ensure people (can’t avoid the booze bus).”

Sgt Wilson said along with this, marked and covert vehicles would patrol residential streets, conducting breath tests.

“Some collisions involving alcohol have occurred in residential streets where drivers have thought it’s safe to go home from a mate’s place or a licensed venue,” he said.

“We will be on those roads and we will be checking everything that moves.”

As part of the operation, police will also have an increased capacity to test drivers for drugs, with an extra 24 members trained in conducting drug impairment assessments.

“If we believe a person is impaired, we can take them back to the station for a drug impairment assessment, which is designed to test the ability of the subject to concentrate on more than one task at a time and assess things like balance,” Sgt Wilson said.

“The number of tests we do allow us to make a fair assessment of their impairment and if it is determined they are impaired, the request is made for the taking of blood.”

Sgt Wilson said police aimed to combat the use of legal drugs while driving, as between 65 and 75 per cent of driver impairments across Victoria were due to prescription medication.

“We really don’t know who we’re sharing the roads with,” he said.

The operation will lead into the statewide Christmas crackdown on driving offences and will mark 12-months of concerted effort by the Latrobe Highway Patrol.

It began with an increased presence on the roads and the breath testing of tens of thousands of drivers, then a targeted effort in smaller towns and back-roads in the evenings and early hours of the morning.

“After every operation we do our figures and what it’s telling us is that generally less people are drinking and driving and the level of (alcohol) concentration is coming down,” Sgt Wilson said.

“The alcohol message is getting across, we’ve just got to get the message out there not to take drugs and drive.”