A four-hour intensive operation mounted by traffic police on the A1 motorway last night resulted in tailbacks of 7kms as drivers were siphoned off the highway to a fuel service station, where rigorous checks took place.
When it was announced on the news, instant understanding was that police must have had some kind of tip-off.
Traffic running from north to south was targeted, and the operation was pre-programmed to last until midnight.
But today it seems this was simply a random decision to check drivers for a welter of potential offences, including “the technical components of their cars”.
A fresh-faced Capitão Machado told SIC television news that the plan was “not to prejudice people travelling north to south on the A1”, but certainly those targeted will not have been delighted. Images showed police going through the contents of people’s boots and removing straw bags and others, presumably to be searched.
It was altogether the last scenario drivers on a Sunday night would have been expecting.
According to Capitão Machado the A1 is one of the nation’s ‘worst highways for crime’. Thus focus was on speeding, drivers over the alcohol limit, or driving without driving licences. Equally “the technical components of cars” was being checked, as well as “systems of security”.
The upshot of these four almost surreal hours outside Santarém were that 65 offences were logged, two drivers were found to be under the influence of illegal substances as well as “quite a few cases of excess speed” detected.
But there was the definite feeling that this was an operation that overstepped the mark of all reasonableness. Today reports have described the ‘chaos’ it created with a lot of people complaining about a horrible end to their weekend, with small children in the backs of cars exhausted, unfed and facing an early rise the next day to go to school.