The myth of being able to take drugs and drive in rural Victoria without being caught is going to be proven wrong in many of Victoria’s smallest communities, with a drug driving enforcement trial here to stay.
The ability to conduct drug tests is now part of business as usual for police working in Skipton, Harrow, Lake Bolac, Wycheproof, Manangatang, Stanhope and Edenhope following a successful trial earlier this year.
Western Region Superintendent Peter Greaney said motorists in the west of the state can expect to be drug tested more often.
“Prior to the trial, drug testing was done predominately by specialist units, including state and local highway patrol units, the Heavy Vehicle Unit, and the Road Policing Drug and Alcohol Section (RPDAS),” he said.
“The inclusion of these one-person stations means that drivers can expect to be pulled over for a roadside drug test anytime, so be warned – if you take drugs and drive, you will be caught.”
Despite making up a little more than 20 per cent of the state’s population, Superintendent Greaney said more than half of the lives lost on Victoria’s roads are in regional areas.
“It’s a sad reality that regional areas across Victoria are overrepresented when it comes to serious injury and fatal collisions, and drugs and alcohol are far too often underlying factors,” he said.
“Police in regional areas are part of the fabric of the community and to attend collisions of people we know can be particularly devasting.
“The ripple effect in small communities can be huge – everyone tends to have some link.”
One of these is Leading Senior Constable Craig Walker, who lives and works in the small town of Skipton.
“As the officer in charge of Skipton Police Station, my main concern is the safety of the community,” he said.
“I want to make sure our town is safe for people to move around, motorists and pedestrians alike.”
A study by Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) found that one in four Victorian drug users admit to driving under the influence of illicit drugs.
Leading Senior Constable Walker said many of the drivers he tested early on, both locals and those travelling further afield, were surprised because they thought only highway patrol conducted roadside drug tests
“Word got around the town pretty quickly, and if that means the fear of getting caught stops those who use drugs from getting behind the wheel, then that’s a good result,” he said.
The reaction from the local community has been positive.
“The residents have been very supportive. There was a bit of interest when I first started doing the drug tests in the main street, but they want to get unsafe drivers off the roads as much as I do,” he said.