RECENT relaxing of metropolitan COVID-19 restrictions has prompted Victoria Police to launch Operation Compass state-wide in response to expected high volumes of traffic on regional roads over three consecutive weekends.
Last weekend was the first to be targeted, with next weekend’s campaign to start at 12.01 am on Thursday November 19 until 11.59 pm on Sunday, November 22, with similar times for the following weekend from Thursday November 26 to Sunday November 29, 2020.
A Victoria Police spokesman said there was a marked increase in the amount of traffic on the South Gippsland Highway, with flow often slowing almost to a halt at its junction with the Bass Highway at Lang Lang at peak times on Friday and Sunday, November 13 and 15.
“Speeding seemed to be not as much of an issue during the weekend, simply because of how much traffic there was on Gippsland regional roads,” he said.
Carefully social distanced preliminary breath testing stations checking for drink and drug driving were set up in many places, for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced earlier this year.
The police spokesman said “Victoria Police is planning for the worst but hoping for the best, and this operation is trying to influence, reduce and prevent bad driver behaviour.
“Operation Compass comes at a critical time for Victorians, 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,” he said.
“Police will be using an intelligence-based approach to target locations and major arterials where law-breaking drivers are expected to be. This includes behaviour such as speeding, drink and drug driving, people not wearing seatbelts, mobile phone use and fatigue.
“With restaurants, pubs and wineries open for service, the community can be reassured police will be out conducting both PBTs and drug tests to get dangerous drivers off our roads,” the spokesman said.
“There will be an increased police presence at popular holiday destinations, and those drivers heading to popular coastal locations are urged to pay extra attention for pedestrians and cyclists around busy parks and beaches and drive accordingly.”
Victoria Police Road Policing Command Acting Assistant Commissioner John Fitzpatrick said “this is the first real opportunity that Melbournians have had in some time to get out and enjoy what Victoria has to offer.
“While it is fantastic to see people engaging in these recreational activities, we need people to go back to basics and arrive at 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.”
South Gippsland police commented that the amount of traffic on district roads during the weekend just gone was “like a long weekend during the summer.”
“The Victorian Government has been enticing Melbourne people to visit regional Victoria,” one local Highway Patrol officer said.
“Judging by how many cars there were on the road during the weekend and how many people there were in Gippsland’s towns, beaches and beauty spots, they certainly didn’t need any more enticing … they’re back!”