Police will be out in force this long weekend with a renewed focus on random roadside testing to detect drivers who could be affected by alcohol and drugs.
Roadside testing was paused during the peak of the coronavirus crisis and widespread lockdowns, for the safety of officers conducting the tests and to prevent cross-contamination among drivers.
However, authorities will be back on the roads in numbers from this long weekend after statistics showed there was an increase in motorists caught for mid and high range drink driving.
Police believe more motorists took the risk to get behind the wheel while under the influence because they figured their chances of getting caught had reduced.
However, while booze buses and large roadside testing operations were suspended, police were still allowed to stop vehicles randomly if a driver was suspected of being impaired.
NSW is one of the first states to reintroduce mass roadside testing for drivers affected by drugs and alcohol.
The NSW Police Minister David Elliott this week delivered a blunt message: “I’ve got one word of advice for the partygoers of NSW this weekend, and that’s ‘Uber’,” a reference to the ride sharing service and the taxi industry.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner, Michael Corboy, the head of the traffic and highway patrol said “concerningly” during the COVID-19 lockdowns “we have seen our medium and high range (drink driving) charges go up”.
“People were drinking more and thinking they could get away with it,” said Assistant Commissioner Corboy.
Police in NSW and other states will now likely be working overtime to make up for the shortfall in random breath test numbers.
In NSW alone, there are approximately 6 million roadside random breath tests conducted each year.
A significant proportion of those drivers are busted between 6am and midday, because they haven’t allowed enough time for alcohol to clear their system.
Police have repeated their earlier calls for motorists to avoid being a “day after drink driver”. That is, someone who may have done the right thing and caught a lift home, but was still over the limit when they went to collect their car the next day.
A longstanding highway patrol officer told CarAdvice that many people under-estimate the effects of alcohol and the time it takes to sober up.
“To eliminate doubt, if you drink, don’t drive – and if you’re driving, don’t drink,” said the officer with more than 20 years experience. “If you’re guessing whether you’re over (the 0.05 limit) or not, that should be a sign to get a lift home”.
In the meantime, police assured motorists that the random breath testing equipment will be cleaned between each use to ensure drivers are not subject to any health risks.