Action needed to save lives on regional Victorian roads

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 12 July 2019

With the state's road toll increasing, new forums ask for community input into how we can prevent loss of lives and injuries on regional roads.

Road safety experts are tackling the state’s burgeoning road toll head on, launching a series of community forums in regional centres around Victoria.  

With the road toll up more than 55 per cent on 2018 so far this year, key representatives from the state government, TAC, Regional Roads Victoria, the Department of Transport, police, SES and local government are attending a series of events in Ballarat, Marysville, Shepparton, Sale, Geelong, Portland, Bendigo and Mildura to listen to community concerns. 

Empty country road follows steep hill of the Grampians in Victoria, cutting through dense bushland

Regional road deaths are overrepresented in the road toll. 

Regional deaths are overrepresented in the road toll, with almost 60 per cent of the 162 fatalities on the state’s roads so far this year occurring in regional Victoria. Most of the 97 people who lost their lives on country roads were locals who died in crashes less than 30 kilometres from their homes.

RACV’s manager of safety and education, Elvira Lazar, has welcomed the forums but warns that further action is needed.

“This is an excellent opportunity for people from around the state to have their say and contribute to the debate,” she says. “But it is the next step that is important -- it is absolutely vital that the government takes this feedback on board and takes swift action to prevent the further loss of lives and injuries on our roads.”

She says the death toll is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to counting the cost of road accidents. For every person killed on our roads, another 30 are hospitalised, and some suffer long-term, life-changing injuries. She says this ‘hidden’ toll of road trauma survivors is increasing, with the ratio of injuries to fatalities doubling over the past decade.

Minister for Roads, Road Safety and TAC, Jaala Pulford, attended the first forum in Ballarat on Wednesday where 100 locals voiced their concerns and suggested solutions.

She says the “entire community is deeply troubled” by the spike in this year’s road toll. The focus of the forums is on understanding why the road toll is so high, following a record low toll last year, she says.

She says there is no single reason for crashes, but rather a range of contributing factors including speed, alcohol, drugs, fatigue and driver distraction.

Road conditions were a factor in just two per cent of road fatalities, so Jaala says road safety professionals need to consider ways to change driver behaviour.

“Close-knit regional communities are often the hardest hit by the devastating and long-lasting impacts of road trauma,” she says.

“We’re asking regional Victorians to spare a couple of hours to speak with experts and fellow community members about what more can be done to stop people dying or being seriously injured on the roads they drive every day.”

Police and emergency services minister Lisa Neville says authorities are acutely aware that regional Victorians are over-represented in the road toll.

“That’s why it’s crucial we hear from them when it comes to tackling road trauma in their communities,” she says.