BUSH-bashers beware — traffic cops are ready to follow misbehaving holidaymakers well beyond the bitumen.
A specialised new team is the initiative of Victoria Police’s state highway patrol.
If necessary, it will travel deep into bush and forest areas to target campers, four-wheel-drivers and trail bikers.
Members of the 15-strong team have been spread across the North East since the beginning of the Christmas period, to crackdown on off-road drink or drug drivers.
Acting Sgt Brad Hall said many people seemed to think that when they left the road and got into the bush, the road rules didn’t apply.
“But all their obligations as a driver are still on them whether they’re in the middle of the bush or on the freeway,” he said.
“You are still accountable for the road rules wherever you are.”
The team was formed in response to statistics that showed a significant amount of road trauma occurred off major roads and highways.
Sgt Hall said among those figures was one which indicated half of all the state’s motorcycle trauma resulted from off-road incidents.
“When you consider the number of trail bikes versus regular bikes, for them to represent 50 per cent is a staggering figure,” he said.
“This initiative is all focused on reducing those figures.”
Officers may travel in four-wheel-drive vehicles and on trail bikes, allowing them to go deep in the heartland of forest areas that police would have previously found inaccessible.
“It allows us to do breath and drug testing right in the deep dark forest,” Sgt Hall said.
Officers have spent the past few days patrolling popular bushland areas between Yarrawonga and Cobram, identified as hot spots by police intelligence.
Sgt Hall said the results from the first patrols had been pleasing.
“We’ve handed out a few infringement notices for various things,” he said.
“But everyone stopped was tested for drugs and alcohol and they all came back zero, which is really good.”
Sgt Hall said officers would be back in the area throughout the year.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the middle of the bush camping or a local rider, chances are you’ll be stopped by us,” he said.