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Victoria Police's high-tech BlueNet cars

Victoria Police's new high-tech BlueNet Highway Patrol car. Picture: Jason Sammon

Traffic fines of more than $500,000 a month are being raked in by just five high tech Victoria Police cars.

Even greater numbers of motorists are about to be nabbed as the hours of use of the futuristic BlueNet vehicles will be increased between now and the end of the year as part of the force's longest and biggest ever blitz on the road toll.

A sixth BlueNet car being added to the fleet early next month will also boost the number of busted drivers and help make Victoria's roads safer.

Top traffic cop Robert Hill yesterday told the Herald Sun the BlueNet's automatic numberplate recognition technology allowed police to proactively target disqualified drivers who were flaunting court orders by continuing to drive.

"We know that unauthorised drivers create extra risk on our roads and are commonly over represented in road trauma," assistant commissioner Hill said.

As well as automatic numberplate recognition systems, the BlueNet vehicles also come equipped with drug and alcohol testing equipment and laser speed detection devices.

Figures provided to the Herald Sun reveal that since January this year police in the five BlueNet cars have:

SCANNED more than 4 million numberplates.

DETECTED 84,000 possible unlicensed drivers and 53,000 possible unregistered vehicles.

ISSUED 9100 infringement notices and 1050 briefs of evidence relating to serious traffic offences.

IMPOUNDED 148 vehicles.

CAUGHT more than three times the amount of suspended and disqualified drivers than non-BlueNet patrol cars do.

Particularly disturbing cases detected by BlueNet vehicles include a 19-year-old learner driver in an unroadworthy car who tested positive for ice and cannabis while driving alone and a female suspended driver who blew .194 after being busted for another drink driving offence just two weeks earlier.

Automatic numberplate recognition cameras mounted on the roof of BlueNet cars rapidly scan every moving, stationary and parked vehicle they pass, instantly detecting suspect drivers and vehicles.

The cameras scan numberplates and alert police officers every time an unregistered car or an unlicensed driver is passed.

They also detect stolen vehicles and drivers with outstanding parking, speeding and other fines.

Assistant commissioner Hill said the BlueNet vehicles provided Victoria Police with a contemporary road policing enforcement tool to further assist in reducing road trauma.

"Mobilising the technology gives us greater ability to detect and remove high risk unauthorised drivers from our roads," he said.

"This technology is the future of road policing and will be fully deployed during the upcoming high-risk spring racing carnival and summer period.

"On average our BlueNet vehicles impound double the amount of vehicles and catch three times the amount of unauthorised drivers than a normal highway patrol vehicle.

"A sixth BlueNet vehicle is being added to the fleet and will be deployed to Melbourne and Prahran highway patrols.

"This additional vehicle will substantially improve our enforcement capacity in the metropolitan Melbourne area, creating a safer road system for all road users."

An ice-addicted banned motorist was nabbed within minutes of the high-tech BlueNet police car hitting the road late last week.

Catching unlicensed drivers is a vital road safety measure.

The 44-year-old woman wasn't pulled over because she was driving erratically.

What got her stopped was information identified by one of the four automatic numberplate recognition cameras fitted to the roof of the BlueNet vehicle.

It scanned the numberplate of her small Mazda and immediately pinged to alert the camera operator the owner of the vehicle had been disqualified from driving after racking up 30 demerit points for speeding and other offences.

The siren and blue lights went on and she was pulled over in Beaconsfield Parade, Middle Park.

Every motorist stopped by police operating BlueNet vehicles is automatically breath tested for alcohol.

This woman's appearance warranted the extra check of undergoing a drug test.

She was amazed when told by Acting Sgt Kevin Byrne that she had tested negative.

"Really, I'm surprised," she told the officer.

"I thought ice stayed in your system longer."

Different illegal drugs stay in the systems of different people for different amounts of time, depending on various factors.

The ice user said she couldn't remember when she last took ice, other than it was "a few days ago".

The Herald Sun recently spent three hours in a BlueNet car as Acting Sgt Byrne and Acting Sen-Sgt Tony Rayson put it through its paces.

In just those three hours it scanned 2486 numberplates, detecting 24 unlicensed drivers and 23 unregistered vehicles.

The busted ice addict was cooperative with police and readily admitted having used the deadly addictive drug "recently".

She told the Herald Sun she didn't want to stop using ice because "I like it, just like you like a cup of coffee".

Acting Sgt Byrne said a normal patrol car would not have picked the ice addict up as she was driving normally and there was nothing visibly wrong with her car.

"That's the beauty of the BlueNet's numberplate scanning technology," he said.

"There is no escaping it. If you are driving without a licence or driving an unregistered vehicle it will pick it up instantly and alert us so we can then pull you over."

The four numberplate recognition cameras mounted on the roof of the BlueNet vehicles cover every angle and automatically scan every moving, stationary and parked vehicle.

They are connected to a computer screen inside the car that is operated by the police officer passenger.

The second a suspect numberplate is detected the screen makes a pinging noise to alert the operator and information comes up on the screen as to what possible offence has been detected, such as the car being unregistered or owned by an unlicensed driver or by a driver who is wanted for unpaid fines or other offences.

"We can be driving in one direction at 100km/h and another car can be driving in the opposite direction at 100km/h and the camera can still scan the plate and instantly tell us if the vehicle is a suspect one," Acting Sgt Byrne said.

"We can even do that at night as the cameras are infra-red."

The BlueNet computer is linked to the VicRoads database so operators can instantly check details of the vehicle and driver.

Next cab off the rank after the busted ice addict's Mazda was a P-plater in a Nissan Skyline who was pulled over in Dryburgh St, North Melbourne.

The BlueNet cameras identified the vehicle as being owned by a 21-year-old from Sunbury whose licence was suspended after she racked up 17 demerit points.

She stepped out of her car with sunglasses perched on her head, carrying an expensive Prada bag, wearing fancy jeans with designer tears and sporting a watch worth more than the average weekly wage.

While polite about it, she insisted the BlueNet computer was wrong and that she did have a current licence — she just didn't have it with her to prove it.

Just as politely, and just as firmly, Acting Sgt Byrne told her she would have her day in court and that she would have to get somebody to come and drive her car away because she couldn't.

It only takes BlueNet half a second to scan a car as it travels past and in one shift it can check up to 7000 cars

Not every motorist stopped during the three hours the Herald Sun was in the BlueNet car was busted.

That welcome common sense and discretion that police officer can use — that speed cameras can't — was in evidence.

The well-dressed businessman in his BMW was parked at traffic lights with his head down and fiddling with what was fairly obviously his mobile phone.

As the BlueNet pulled alongside him Acting Sen-Sgt Rayson wound down his window and yelled out.

The motorist looked up and got the shock of his life as the lights changed to green and he heard "don't do that again" as the BlueNet moved off.

Luckiest of all that day was the P-plater pulled over while driving a truck the BlueNet pinged as being owned by a disqualified driver.

It turned out the banned motorist wasn't the driver and the P-plater was quite legitimately driving a truck belonging to the company he worked for.

Only problem was he only had one P-plate on display, rather than the required front and rear ones.

That offence carries three demerit points and the young driver already had four of the six demerit points needed before license loss.

"He was a good kid and issuing an infringement for only having one P-plate on display would have meant him losing his licence and not being able to work," Acting Sgt Byrne said.

"I exercised my discretion after he assured me he would quickly get a second P-plate and display it."

Biggest fine of the day was the $1328 ticket issued to a truck driver detected with an unregistered trailer.

"The boss will pay that, it's his trailer and his responsibility to register it," the driver said.

The smallest was the $148 infringement notice given to the P-plater with the automatic licence who was driving a manual Toyota HiLux ute.

While the bulk of offences detected by BlueNet vehicles involve unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles, in the past nine months they have also nabbed 880 motorists for seat belt and mobile phone offences, 2500 for speeding, 55 for drink driving and 2165 for other miscellaneous traffic offences.

"When I started 36 years ago it would take 45 minutes on the roadside to confirm someone was unregistered," Acting Sen-Sgt Rayson said.

"It only takes BlueNet half a second to scan a car as it travels past and in one shift it can check up to 7000 cars.

"That means that when we are in a BlueNet we know a vehicle is unauthorised before we even pull it over."

Catching unlicensed drivers is a vital road safety measure.

A Monash University study found about 11 per cent of fatal crashes involve an unlicensed driver.

Alcohol was present in 55 per cent of unlicensed driver fatalities.