IF YOU’VE been stopped by police for a random breath test this week, you might be surprised to find the technology is celebrating a historic anniversary.
In November 1982 the first random breath-test was given in NSW, and, although the technology behind the little plastic tube has changed dramatically, the message remains the same.
Police Minister Michael Gallacher said the RBT was estimated to have saved 7000 lives in NSW in the past 30 years.
Officers from the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command in Sydney are in Tamworth this week for two reasons: to educate and inform, and to bust those doing the wrong thing.
“There have been 57 people detected drink-driving in the Oxley Local Area Command this year and that’s a lot,” Inspector Steve Blair said.
“How much more do police have to do before the message hits home?”
The five Sydney patrol officers have joined forces with their comrades at Oxley LAC as part of Operation Paciullo, a high-visibility RBT operation, including a road show with relics from the past and present, which the public can see at the Tamworth Show today and tomorrow.
The operation has been named in honour of the late George Paciullo, the chairman of the parliamentary Staysafe Committee in 1982, who is widely recognised as the pioneer of RBT in NSW.
Along with a heavy presence on our roads this week, you may have spotted an original 1970s police car and the very noticeable white Ford Falcon GT concept car.
“It’s sexy, it’s fast and it’s been signed by Dick Johnson,” Inspector Blair said.
For those who watch the television show RBT, there may be a few familiar faces, as senior constables Mark Pheeney and Gerry Moriarty are also in town.
“Gerry’s the celebrity,” Inspector Blair said.
“He’s a regular on the show.”
The Sydney officers and vehicles will join their Tamworth counterparts, along with the RBT van with the latest breath-analysis equipment, at the show, with the aim of educating regional, rural and metropolitan audiences on the importance of safe road practices.
“It’s good to see how technology has evolved throughout the years,” Inspector Blair said.
“When I first started policing in 1978, it was exciting to get a car with a radio.”
He said when breath-testing first began, officers would be issued with little packets with tubes, which they would have to snap off and give to drivers to blow into.
Inspector Blair said if the crystals in the tube turned green, the verdict was an excess of alcohol in the blood.
He said the tool’s introduction was revolutionary to the way police could attack the crime of drink-driving, but they were still facing a “typical Aussie attitude”, even 30 years on.
“Personally I think that there’s this attitude in Australia that drink-
driving is considered a lesser crime than, say, domestic violence or assault,” Inspector Blair said.
“In fact, it’s a very serious crime – it has the potential to kill or maim.”
The roadshow is travelling throughout NSW for the next 12 months.