Published: 11 January 2018
Author: Kellie Knowles
Lives lost on country roads demands community attention
Eight people have lost their lives on Victorian roads in the first ten days of 2018, nearly triple the average for this period. Six of these deaths occurred in rural areas.
Deaths on country roads are on the rise. Last year there was a 3 per cent increase in fatalities in rural Victoria, in a year when there was an 11 per cent decrease in fatalities across Victoria. The increase in rural fatalities requires urgent community attention.
The first life lost in 2018 was on New Year’s Day in Illawarra when a driver appears to have swerved to miss a kangaroo and lost control. The vehicle rolled over and one of the passengers died.
In Ballarat, where I live and work, accidents involving kangaroos are common. But dangerous driving, rather than wildlife, appears to be the cause of two fatal crashes in the area this January, with police laying charges in relation to a crash at Castlemaine and another at Newbury.
Dangerous driving in the form of speeding was the most common offence detected during a police blitz in Ballarat over the Christmas break. In fact, Ballarat was found to be “over-represented” for speeding offences, police have told local paper, The Courier.
The Courier has showcased the alarming results of Operation Roadwise in Ballarat, and we hope the local community takes notice: 'Not the start we wanted': Police shocked at operation's results.
In this year’s 24-day operation, speeding was the most common offence, with 372 offences. Twenty-six of these drivers were caught speeding at more than 25 km/h over the speed limit. Speeding was also the most common offence detected during last year’s operation in Ballarat. Why the hurry Ballarat?
Twenty-five people in Ballarat were also fined for not wearing a seat belt. There was 24 drink driving offences, and 13 drug driving offences. Sixty-four people on Ballarat roads were found to be driving while disqualified or without a licence – another “over-representation”, according to police.
Assistant Police Commissioner Doug Fryer said the results of this year’s operation are “unacceptable and completely inconsistent with keeping safe on our roads.”
“Police are out doing our part to enforce the law but I must implore the community to do the right thing in the first place.”
In Ballarat, reducing speeding would be a good start. Let’s not be “over-represented” again in next year’s dangerous driving statistics.
Fryer made the comment that for the families of this year’s road victims, “2018 has become the worst year of their lives before it has barely started.” As a personal injury lawyer, I have met people with devastating injuries, or who have lost love ones in road accidents, trying to get their lives back on track. This often takes years, and sometimes, sadly, it is impossible. While it is rewarding to help victims seek compensation for their injuries, the money, of course, does not fix their injuries, stop their nightmares, or mend broken families.
The TAC has recognised that “road toll” language can dehumanise road deaths and makes it easier for the community to disengage from the issue. For this reason, it now refers to “lives lost”, rather than “road toll”, when publishing accident statistics. I support this change in policy.
Police are continuing to investigate some of the other fatal crashes this year, and have urged witnesses to come forward. This is another way the community can help address road trauma.
We urge locals and visitors to county Victoria to be diligent and safe on our roads this year.