Booze buses will return to Victorian roads this weekend as police brace for a surge in traffic on regional roads after the “ring of steel” was lifted.
The drug and alcohol buses had been out of action since March due to health fears from COVID-19 but will be rolled out again from this weekend as police plan for thousands of Melburnians to escape to the country for the first time since July.
While random breath tests continued throughout Victoria’s lockdowns, fears that the booze bus operations would bring officers into proximity with hundreds of motorists and potentially transmit the virus further led to them being suspended.
During the pandemic the buses had been redeployed to assist police manning coronavirus checkpoints separating metropolitan and regional Victoria.
The “ring of steel” and travel limits on Melburnians was lifted last Sunday night meaning Victorians are now free to travel across the state again.
It comes as Victoria Police launch Operation Compass which will run over the next three weekends and aim to stamp out bad driver behaviour.
The force said they were planning for the worst but hoping for the best with thousands of drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, new P-platers, caravanners and truck drivers anticipated to share the road as they head off on a well-deserved break.
The operation comes at a critical time after 21 Victorians have lost their lives on the state’s roads over the past four weeks.
Road Policing Command Acting Assistant Commissioner John Fitzpatrick urged drivers to go back to basics and arrive to their destination safely.
“This means buckling up, slowing down and not driving while impaired,” he said.
“People will be driving both speeds and distances they are unfamiliar with. I urge that drivers do all they can to arrive alive.
“This means taking appropriate breaks, leaving your phone alone and being aware of your surroundings.”
Police said there would be an increased police presence at popular holiday destinations, such as Ballarat, Geelong, the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas, the Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, the Grampians, Yarra Valley, Daylesford, Hepburn Springs and Macedon.
Officers will be targeting bad behaviour such as speeding, drink and drug driving, people not wearing seatbelts, mobile phone use and fatigue.