VICTORIA will have a dedicated new road safety office with a focus on tackling the state's high road toll.
The new office will be headed by VicRoads' current Chief Executive Robyn Seymour, who will take on the role as the head of Road Safety Victoria on August 1.
Road Safety Victoria will centralise the road safety functions of VicRoads and the Department of Transport while working closely with other road safety partners such as Victoria Police, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and other government departments to deliver the current Towards Zero strategy while coordinating programs, campaigns and developing new strategies to reduce Victoria's road toll.
Ms Seymour is passionate about road safety and has been working in the area for almost 20 years.
She began her career as a road trauma counsellor, where she worked with individuals and families impacted by road trauma for eight years. She then moved into prevention.
"While I found the counselling work incredibly rewarding and supporting people going through incredibly difficult and confronting times was something that I really valued, I felt I could prevent those families and individuals going through that experience by ensuring that we are working really hard to minimise trauma on our roads," she said.
Since then, Ms Seymour has endeavoured to improve road safety by focusing on the behavioural and road user side, working with communities, on vehicle safety and more recently, infrastructure.
Three lives were lost on Ballarat roads in 2018 but there has not been a death on any of the city's roads this year.
However, surrounding shires have seen increases. There were two deaths in Golden Plains last year, which has risen to five so far this year and in Moorabool, there was one death last year which has jumped to five this year.
Pyrenees has also seen a spike from one to three deaths while Hepburn has seen a decrease from four deaths to one.
Ms Seymour's first priority once she takes her seat in the office is to ensure it has a strong and focused team to support the work the department and road safety partners are doing to address road trauma while focusing on consulting with regional communities, where most deaths have occurred this year, through the regional road safety summits.
"We have had a shocking first half of the year and need to focus on trying to help keep the community safe while we work on a longer term strategy around what future work we need to do," she said.
One of the factors Ms Seymour will address is the fact statistics show that 15 per cent of people who have been killed on the roads this year were not wearing seat belts, even though Victoria led the world in making it compulsory to wear them decades ago.
We need to understand some of the decisions people are making - whether it's driving when tired, the distraction of mobile phones and other things in vehicles or alcohol and drugs - we will look at how we can influence them to help keep people safe and better support communities to make good decisions when they're on the roads, whether that's in a vehicle or as a cyclist, motorcyclist or as a pedestrian.Robyn Seymour
Read more: Road Toll 2019: Dying close to home
"We have the existing Towards Zero strategy which has some great initiatives in it to help us achieve the trauma reduction techniques and meet the government's goal to have a road toll below 200 by 2020. So we need to keep working hard on that and addressing the spike in the trauma this year which is horrific for the 157 families now dealing with loss of a family member," she said.
She said once it was clear what was causing so much road trauma, targeted measures would be developed involving both regulations and work at a community level.
"We can then look beyond 2020 at the opportunities we are seeing through vehicle technology, safety, what we need to do in terms of infrastructure and addressing some of the challenges around mobile phones and driver distraction," she said.
Ms Seymour supports the roll out of road safety barriers and said another important part of the current strategy was around ensuring safer vehicles with up-to-date technology are getting into the secondhand car market.
"One strategy under the Towards Zero initiative is the government purchasing Victorian fleet cars and prioritising safety features. Government fleets have a lot of vehicles so if we can make sure we are purchasing safe vehicles at a government level that will be turned over and end up in the secondhand car market it means people will get the benefits of that technology more quickly," she said.
"That's an important part of it around educating drivers, particularly young and older drivers, around the choices they make around vehicles. Now, because of technology, you can buy very safe vehicles at a reasonable price but more work needs to be done to further support people in ensuring they are in safe cars."
Once the framework is set at a regulatory level, Ms Seymour said the challenge was helping the community to understand the issue through programs like Starting Out Safely, Looking After Our Mates and L2P programs.
"We all - road safety agencies and the community - have an important role to play to drive the road toll down," she said.