Booze bus concept drawing, 1989
In 1909 Victoria became the first state in Australia to outlaw driving motorcars under the influence of alcohol.
At the time, the only method police had to identify drink-driving was an on-the-spot assessment of the driver’s behaviour and appearance. Slurred speech, disheveled clothing and a whiff of alcohol were all potential giveaways. The penalty was severe - offenders faced a ten pound fine for their first offence, and a 25 pound fine or three months imprisonment for their second. Victoria was ahead of the times – England took until 1925 to enact laws against drunk driving.
In the 1950s Police began blood testing for drunk drivers, however blood samples were voluntary, and it took some time for results to be obtained.
50 years later in 1961 the invention of a portable breathalyser revolutionised the way police detected intoxicated drivers. Dispensing results in just three minutes, this innovative new device provided police with immediate evidence of a driver’s blood alcohol concentration. In 1965, Victoria became the first State in Australia to introduce that made it an offence to have a blood alcohol concentration above a certain level – set at 0.5%.
By the 1970s, Victoria Police had introduced Portable Breath test stations – the predecessors of todays ‘Booze Bus’s. Over the next decade police were apprehending, on average, 16,000 drink-drivers a year. Devices like the portable breath tester helped Victoria Police reduce Victorian road tolls from a horror high of 1061 in 1970, to less than 300 a year. Today Victoria Police test up to 4 million drivers a year.