Roads Minister Jaala Pulford has argued that blaming road conditions alone for our shocking road toll is a distraction from the many causes, especially human error, that must be the focus of a comprehensive road safety solution.
Ms Pulford said each crash was unique with varying known contributing factors such as speed, alcohol, drugs, fatigue and distraction.
She said it was important to understand that road conditions were a factor in only two per cent of fatality crashes so the focus needed to be on changing driver behaviour.
"Whilst road condition is a factor in a very small proportion of these accidents and we need to do everything we can to make roads as safe as we can - which is why we are installing all of those barriers and are upgrading hundreds of intersections - speed, drugs and alcohol, fatigue and distraction are the things that are killing people in unacceptably large numbers."
The eight Towards Zero Regional Road Safety Forums are the result of an emergency summit about road safety hosted in Melbourne earlier this year and are intended to give regional communities a voice into what they think should be part of Victoria's next road safety strategy.
Of the 162 deaths which have occurred on Victorian roads so far this year, 97 have occurred on regional roads. The total number of deaths on the state's roads is up a shocking 55.8 per cent from last year's figures.
Transport Accident Commission (TAC) statistics from earlier this year revealed that the majority of drivers killed on regional roads were locals driving within 30 kilometres of their homes.
Minister for Roads, Road Safety and the TAC Jaala Pulford said the focus of the forum would be around trying to understand why the road toll is so high this year, despite a record low last year.
"We take every opportunity to understand as well as we possibly can why it is different this year. We are comparing [the statistics] to last year - an unusually good year on our roads and the lowest since record keeping began.
"Over 50 years we've reduced the number of lives lost on Victorian roads by 80 per cent. We now have four times as many vehicles and twice the population so it is a great achievement we can all be proud of but this year ... the loss of lives on our roads is above average. I think the entire community is deeply troubled by this."
Whilst road condition is a factor in a very small proportion of these accidents and we need to do everything we can to make roads as safe as we can... speed, drugs and alcohol, fatigue and distraction are the things that are killing people in unacceptably large numbers.Jaala Pulford
Ms Pulford said distraction from technology, such as mobile phones, was a significantly under-reported factor in fatal accidents.
She said the state government was watching a number of trials closely and had funded the acquisition of new camera technology through the state budget so police could more easily catch people using their phones whilst behind the wheel.
"We need to improve our ability to catch people on their phones because we know that will be a very powerful motivator to get people to stop using them," she said.
"We also have campaigns to help people in the community understand that if you're on your phone for a couple of seconds it's the equivalent of being blindfolded or having someone's hands over your eyes. It's a dangerous thing to do.
"We want to do more in enforcement and we are exploring all new technology and options to get better at that. The simplest thing is to switch off and stick it in the glove box - it's not rocket science."
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