Statistics released on Sunday show that drivers who stray from their lanes on country roads are dicing with death.
The 2015 Victorian Road Trauma Report had the shocking statistic that 97 of the 136 fatal road accidents on country roads came from a “lane departure”, and of these crashes 30% involve alcohol or drugs and 27% involve speeding.
This was shown in the horrific New Year’s Eve crash at Mount Mercer where a 19-year-old man was killed.
Assistant Commissioner for Road Policing Doug Fryer said at the time the car had overtaken on the two-lane road, then swerved and rolled when returning to the south-bound lane.
Roads Minister Luke Donnellan told The Courier the statistics from 2015 would help form the next safety strategies.
“These stats drive our road safety policy. Half our road deaths are regional and rural, and from those about 75 per cent come from lane crossovers,” he said.
Mr Donnellan said several factors would mean fatalities would slowly drop.
“You can treat it in a broad range of ways,” he said.
“Safer roads, safer drivers, better cars and better use of technology (will help).”
“No one ought to make a simple mistake and die.”
However the first months of 2016 have shown that anything can happen on the roads.
As of Sunday, 69 people had died on Victorian roads since January 1.
This is 12 more than the same time last year, and the gulf was higher earlier in the year due to spates of crashes and some multiple fatalities.
Ballarat has seen two fatal accidents and others injured on the roads so far.
Mr Donnellan said while the sheer number of motorbike riders dying in 2016 had shocked him, the who and why was also important.
“We’ve lost 21 (riders), the thing that’s surprising, it’s the age,” he said.
“Most of the riders were over 35 years of age, so they’re in many cases returning to ride their bikes after driving cars for many years.”
“That older age group is usually more mature, more experienced.”
But Mr Donnellan said the fault determined by police showed it was not just drivers making more mistakes or being more aggressive.
“It looks like, for the majority, it’s actually been the fault of the motorbike rider, not the car,” he said.
“It’s not the usual pattern.”
The trauma report also found more young driver and passenger deaths.
“Ten more young drivers (18 to 20 years) and seven more young passengers (16 to 17 years) died on our roads in 2015 compared to 2014, and all but one of the young passengers died in vehicles driven by drivers aged 17 to 22,” it said.
“Many of these fatalities involved lane departure collisions, and occurred on weekends and on outer urban and rural roads.”
Mr Donnellan said more police out on the roads could help but it was also up to the community to slow the road toll.
“Looking to change the behaviour across the whole state, it can work, like we saw it with road safety cameras,” he said.
“The behaviour accordingly changes, be it from cameras or police themselves.”
“But in many ways that’s also the responsibility of the road safety partners to just highlight it is a mother and brother, a friend (dying), not just a number. ”
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