Bulgarian police, working with traffic police, fraud squad, motor vehicle administration and customs officers, are beginning a large-scale campaign of mass spot checks on the roads as the winter holiday season gets underway.
The first two large-scale checks will be on December 6, St Nicholas’s Day in Bulgaria, and December 8, celebrated in Bulgaria as a student holiday on which students traditionally party in popular resorts.
Police will be checking motorists for consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs in Sofia’s Students Town and around hotels in Bansko, Pamporovo, Borovets, Sunny Beach and Golden Sands.
The practice of various law enforcement agencies working together in one place at the roadside to conduct spot checks was adopted by Bulgaria this year. Law enforcement agencies call this the “Dutch method”, saying that they copied the practice from the Netherlands.
Police set up a temporary base at the roadside and check vehicles – including private cars, taxis, lorries and buses – for compliance with various laws, inspecting whether the driver has a driving licence, required documentation for the vehicle, and – depending on what kind of vehicle they are checking – invoices, tickets, luggage and waybills. Sniffer dogs check for drugs.
The spot checks mean a temporary suspension of an order by Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov that motorists should not be randomly stopped but only if they have committed a traffic offence.
Spot check operations also will be carried out on December 21 and 28 near road border crossings, mountain resorts and major cities.
Twenty-four fixed and 130 mobile cameras mounted in police cars will be used countrywide to detect motorists breaking speed limits.
According to a December 5 2012 report by Bulgarian-language news website Mediapool, a motorist set a new record for breaking the speed limit on a Bulgarian highway. The motorist, at the wheel of a BMW with a Plovdiv licence plate, was detected travelling at 257km/h on the Plovdiv-Sofia highway.
Pazardzhik traffic police chief Todor Todorov said that the motorist was fined 900 leva (about 450 euro).
The previous record was 251km/h, in turning breaking the record before that of 247km/h and an earlier record of 237km/h. In 2012, the speed limit on Bulgarian highways was increased from 120km/h to 140km/h.
Todorov was reported as saying that if anyone had the ambition of setting a new record by exceeding 300km/h, they should know that the fine would be 1400 leva.
Meanwhile, in Sofia traffic police said that they would be working to help traffic flow as smoothly as possible, especially around shopping malls and venues with festive bazaars and concerts.
The “Dutch method” of checks also would be carried out at various times of day and night in the Bulgarian capital city during the winter holiday season.
Sofia traffic police chief Bogdan Milchev, interviewed by mass-circulation daily Trud, said that two weeks ago there had been a large-scale operation to check for drink-driving. About 1800 drivers were tested and 40 were found to be over the blood-alcohol legal limit, he said.
Asked whether “Dutch method” operations in Sofia would end around the times of the last two major holidays of Bulgaria’s peak winter holiday season – Ivanovden on January 7 or Trifon Zarezan on February 14 – he said that there was no end date and that motorists should be aware that such checks could be carried out at any time of day or night throughout the year.
In the years between 1990 and 2011, an average 87 people died on Bulgarian roads in December. In 2012, 551 people had been killed on Bulgaria’s roads by December 5, including five people who died in vehicle accidents in the first five days of December.
The common reasons for road deaths in Bulgaria each year are speeding and overtaking when it is unsafe to do so, but winter brings new hazards – drink-driving, wet and icy roads, fewer daylight hours, fog, rain and snow, and heavy traffic.
(Photo: Morten Bech/sxc.hu)