AT $120,000 a pop, highway patrol cars are big, bold and expensive.
The mere sight of one makes even the safest motorist brake, even if they aren’t speeding.
But what makes them different from your run-of-the-mill SS Commodore – which, by comparison, retails at $49,790 plus dealer and on-road charges?
While the police models are slightly modified, they use the same six-litre V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, suspension and wheels as the regular SS Commodore which is available to the public.
Chifley cluster traffic and highway patrol manager Senior Sergeant Ben Macfarlane said highway patrol cars are virtually a mini mobile office in which officers can do everything from check the status of a rego to provide a database for stolen, unregistered or suspect vehicles, and plenty in between.
Among the cutting edge equipment included in the car is its automatic number-plate recognition technology; three cameras mounted on the car’s roof linked to a computer running optical recognition software and the database of stolen, unregistered or suspect vehicles which sounds an alarm every time it finds a match. The system is capable of scanning and checking six number plates a second.
The patrol cars also have in-car video cameras which ensure each road-user infringement is documented and can be used as evidence in court if required.
Senior Sergeant Macfarlane said the in-car video was introduced around 10 years ago, and has certainly affected the number of not-guilty pleas made in court.
In addition, the cars have radio communication equipment, fixed and handheld speed check devices and random breath-testing equipment.
And that’s before you open the boot ... which, for the record, is equipped with road spikes, first-aid kits, traffic cones, a fire extinguisher, safety vests, electronic flares and more.
Senior Sergeant Macfarlane said highway patrol cars’ quality and safety had improved significantly over the years.
He said the cars, which are generally replaced at around 60,000 kilometres, are washed at the beginning of every shift.
“The cars work hard, but they are looked after,” he said.