STA, 31 March 2021 - The Motorway Police Department became formally operational on Wednesday in what is a major step towards the formation of the Slovenian motorway patrol. The first patrols aimed at boosting the enforcement of traffic rules and improving safety on the motorway network are expected to hit the road in June.
Announcing the establishment of the department, the police said that the increasing volume of traffic on Slovenian motorways had led to traffic jams, accidents and violations of rules, while illegal migration and crime were also on the rise.
"The presence of police officers should therefore be increased on motorways and expressways," the police said, adding that the first step was the Motorway Police Department, to be followed by the Specialised Motorway Police Unit Ljubljana.
The latter is expected to dispatch the first patrols in June, and to be followed by four more regional units (Koper, Novo Mesto, Celje and Maribor), to be established by May 2022 so that the entire motorway network is covered.
According to police spokesperson Maja Ciperle Adlešič, once fully operational, the Slovenian highway patrol will employ 285 police officers, some of whom would be reassigned, while fresh recruits from police schools would also be hired.
The department, which is headed by former acting Police Commissioner Andrej Jurič, will be seated in Postojna. Its members will wear special uniforms and insignia.
Initially, it will perform only traffic control, while in the long run it is expected to gradually perform other elements of police work, such as criminal investigation, search for suspects and prevention of illegal migration.
It will be connected with other police units, traffic safety organisations and law enforcement authorities from Slovenia's neighbouring countries.
The police said that in addition to smuggling of illegal migrants, the Slovenian motorway network is being used for smuggling of illicit drugs and theft, in particular on rest stops during the peak tourist season.
At the opening ceremony in the building of the former traffic police, where the department will be seated, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said that the department had long been a wish of the police and the national motorway company DARS.
"With the greater presence of police patrols on motorways we want to raise the level of traffic culture," he added.
DARS is to support the work of the new department, including with funds and by co-financing equipment and providing infrastructure on the Slovenian motorway network, but DARS chairman Valentin Hajdinjak did not want to go into details.
"Together with the police, we are introducing order on Slovenian motorways and guarantees that motorways will be safer," Hajdinjak added.
As for traffic safety, the national Traffic Safety Agency, which supports the idea of highway patrol as an "additional element of road traffic safety", noted that the number of accidents on Slovenian motorways had actually been decreasing.
While there were 1,956 accidents in 2018 and 1,947 in 2019, the figure dropped to 1,284 last year, while the number of pile-up collisions has been increasing, mostly as a consequence of hold-ups.
Speeding remains the main cause of accidents, followed by drivers not keeping a safe distance, and driving in the opposite direction.
Between 2017 and 2020, a total of 51 people were killed on Slovenian motorways, 183 were gravely injured and 1,934 sustained minor injuries.