WHILE unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles on Ballarat roads continue to be a bane for police, new technology is helping to curb dangerous and illegal drivers.
Victoria Police statistics obtained by The Courier reveal that unregistered vehicles are a continuing problem in Ballarat, with more than 680 people nabbed by police after failing to register their vehicles in the past year.
While the number of Ballarat residents police have caught driving with an expired licence on the region's roads has remained relatively steady during the past three years - with police nabbing 122 people last year - the number of unlicensed drivers issued infringements has dropped from 141 in 2016-17 to 93 in 2018-19.
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Another problem is failing to display number plates, with 33 drivers issued infringements in the year 2016-17, though this dropped to eight last year.
Ballarat Highway Patrol's Acting Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale said though unregistered and unlicensed drivers were an issue across the service area, it was not factoring into road trauma here as it is around the state.
Earlier this year Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Argall said a 2016 study of fatal collisions found that unauthorised drivers were at fault in 16 per cent of collisions, while the same study found around one in five injury collisions involving an unregistered vehicle involved an unauthorised driver.
Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said driving unauthorised or unlicensed was inexcusable and puts everybody's safety at risk.
"They are unlicensed or disqualified drivers for a reason - from never bothering to get a licence to being disqualified for committing serious offences involving drink and drug driving to causing death or serious injury," he said.
"It comes back to the idea that people feel entitled to a licence but they are not. It's a privilege. Driving a motor vehicle has the propensity for a lot of things to happen so you have to have your wits about you."
With 237 deaths on Victorian roads so far this year as well as collisions resulting in serious injury, authorities are continuing to look into the causes contributing to the spike in road trauma.
What is factoring into road trauma in the Ballarat region is drivers not wearing seatbelts, distraction and fatigue, Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said.
Driving an unregistered vehicle is often attributed to an inability to pay for the registration, though VicRoads now allows drivers to pay in installments rather than a lump sum.
Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said statistics fluctuated for a number of reasons but as the new Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology is continually rolled out and further developed, it is expected the number of unauthorised drivers and unregistered vehicles detected by police would increase.
Highway patrol officers have two vehicles fitted with the technology that are used across the Ballarat police service area - encompassing Ballarat, Moorabool, Hepburn Shire and Golden Plains - while more vehicles will be rolled out in coming months.
ANPR technology scans number plates and alerts police officers to the licence status of a registered car owner, if a vehicle is unregistered, any outstanding sheriff's notices, stolen cars and number plates in a matter of seconds.
Rather than officers needing to physically observe, enter the data and check the information manually, the technology allows police officers to be proactive and focus on drivers not wearing their seatbelts or for distraction offences such as drivers using their mobile phones.
Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said increasing police powers to impose harsher penalties for unsafe behaviour on the roads and to impound more vehicles has helped to get more dangerous drivers off the roads, especially recidivist offenders.
The Transport Accident Commission's Lead Director of Road Safety Samantha Cockfield agreed.
Driving without a licence, or unregistered, is completely unacceptable and we ask all road users to make safe choices and consider the potentially tragic consequences of deliberately engaging in risk-taking behaviour.TAC's Samantha Cockfield
At typically the highest trauma point of the year around Ballarat, police are preparing for the festive season, with three week Operation Roadwise to kick off mid-December.
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