Booze buses are returning to Ballarat roads as police prepare for a surge in traffic to regional Victoria this weekend - the first after the ring of steel was lifted.
Through a new statewide police operation starting today, Operation Compass, police are "preparing for the worst but hoping for the best".
In response to this anticipated increase in traffic, more police will be out and about - particularly at popular tourist spots such as Ballarat, Hepburn and the Grampians - in the hope to prevent bad driver behaviour and road trauma.
It comes as 21 people have lost their lives on Victorian roads in the last month.
These include a 51-year-old Drouin woman on the Western Freeway at Gordon on October 25 and a 59-year-old Creswick man working on the side of the Western Highway at Trawalla on October 21.
To prevent further lives being lost, Operation Compass will run for the next three weekends with a focus on speeding, drink and drug driving, failing to wear a seatbelt, mobile phone use and fatigue.
Highway Patrol Senior Sergeant, Stuart Gale, told The Courier police would be out in force and targeting all of the contributors to road trauma to prevent further tragedies in the region.
"We will be keeping an eye out and making sure people comply with the road rules," he said.
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With licensed premises open for service, the police response to drink and drug driving will also be strengthened as booze buses return to the region this weekend.
Senior Sergeant Gale said local police would support testing through booze buses, to boost the number of drug and alcohol tests conducted to take dangerous drivers off the roads.
Booze buses operations were ceased in March amid fears random testing could spread COVID-19.
About the return of booze buses to Victorian roads, a Victoria Police spokesperson said the organisation wanted to "make it very clear that the exposure risk to coronavirus from a PBT machine is no different to going about your daily life in the community."
They said expert medical advice had been sought and police had been reassured it was safe for members of the community to participate in a preliminary breath test.
The spokesperson said new straws and gloves would be used for each PBT while the machine itself would also be disinfected after each use.
"It is against the law for drivers to refuse a PBT on the basis that they suspect coronavirus could be contracted," they said.
However, they said if a driver was not confident this had taken place, they could ask the police officer to complete the steps in front of them again.
If the driver still refuses to be tested, penalties will apply.
As a part of Operation Compass enhanced police enforcement will take place from:
. 12.01am on Thursday 12 November to 11.59pm on Sunday 15 November
. 12.01am on Thursday 19 November to 11.59pm on Sunday 22 November
. 12.01am on Thursday 26 November to 11.59pm on Sunday 29 November