DESPITE the number of people dying on regional roads this year, new research from the Australian Road Safety Foundation has put the spotlight on the risky behaviours drivers are participating in while behind the wheel.
The research, released to mark Road Safety Month (August 1 to 31) involved 1000 participants and reveals that one in three Australian drivers admit that they are more likely to undertake risky behaviour on rural roads because they believe they are less likely to be caught by police.
The research reveals that regional Victorian residents are more likely to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, to drive fatigued and not wear a seatbelt. One in two regional drivers admitted to speeding, using their mobile phone or driving while distracted, even with children in the car.
With 105 drivers losing their lives on regional Victorian roads to date this year, compared to 61 last year, police have expressed they are "frustrated" with driver attitudes.
Ballarat Highway Patrol's Acting Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale said it is incredibly frustrating to continue to see risky driver behaviour on the roads. There have been 17 deaths in the police service area - encompassing Moorabool and Ballarat - and so everybody in his team has attended at least one road fatality this year.
He said people feel they have a right to a license, but really, it is a privilege and as it can be dangerous, people need to concentrate 100 per cent of the time.
The halo effect resulting from drivers seeing a police presence has been proven to decrease offending and so police are continuing to increase their presence on the roads.
Related coverage: Community actions aims to reduce state's road toll
"Enforcement activity really deters people from offending," Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said.
"If people want to take these risks then we will be out there to catch them."
Ballarat Local Area Commander Ben Young said that throughout 2019 the state had seen elevated trauma on country roads.
'These roads often have higher speed limits and lower road infrastructure which leads to more serious collisions when they do unfortunately occur. We know from experience that country roads are less forgiving - they have smaller shoulders, less barrier protection and are often heavily treed," he said.
He said that due to the increased requirement for regional residents to drive greater distances and the reduced accessibility to public transport, police see a lot of people travelling into Ballarat for medical appointments and to visit shopping centres.
"Country roads also see elevated risk in regard to animal strikes," he said. "It has been a police initiative to publicise the 'stay straight and brake' campaign after animal strikes and associated vehicles leaving the road and striking trees or rolling were identified."
ARSF founder and chief executive Russell White urged Australians to take ownership for their role in reducing the road toll, as it is everyday Australians who hold the key to safer roads.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.