Motorists caught in gridlock on the Western Ring Road around Sunshine cheered and clapped police booking drivers illegally using the emergency stopping lane on the eve of the Labour Day long weekend.

Sergeant Bill Joannidis, from Brimbank highway patrol, said dozens of police officers had been stationed along the Greensborough-bound section of the freeway before the Furlong Road exit, targeting drivers using the emergency lane to jump queues.

“We’ve had so many complaints about this from drivers frustrated with others blatantly breaching the road laws and driving on the emergency lane daily,” he said. “Most people do the right thing, but some just fly down there.”

He said plain-clothes officers were stationed along the freeway as “spotters”.

They alerted colleagues around the bend to pull over offending drivers.

Sergeant Joannidis said police were staggered by support from drivers caught in peak hour traffic.

“We had people clapping, some were cheering, and it wasn’t just a few, it was a heap of people,” he said.

Between 3.30pm and 6.30pm on Friday, March 10, police issued more than 200 infringement notices of $311 to drivers for ignoring emergency stopping lane only signs.

Police also fined a number of people for using their mobile phones while driving.

“The police spotters could clearly see motorists looking down and using their phones while travelling in the heavy traffic,” Sergeant Joannidis said.

“All it takes for a collision to occur is for traffic to stop – which it does frequently during these times – while a driver is momentarily looking down at their phone and not on the road ahead.”

The police operation was part of a larger, statewide crackdown on road offences, called Operation Arid.

Brimbank recorded the most offences in the state over the four-day operation, which ran across the Labour Day long weekend, including almost 660 traffic offences, 49 mobile phone offences, 33 unlicensed drivers, eight drug drivers, 57 unregistered vehicles and 167 speeding offences.