REDUCING road trauma will require a whole community effort, as Hepburn Shire residents come to terms with a fifth death in the region within a month.
Police investigations are continuing after a 39-year-old female died in a single vehicle accident at Hepburn on Tuesday morning. Police believe the driver, a Hepburn local, was travelling north when she lost control of her vehicle and struck a tree on Ajax Road about 4.25am.
In a region small enough for most people to know each other, the deaths have rocked the community.
Hepburn Shire Council mayor Cr Licia Kokocinski said the council expressed its sincerest apologies to the families of those who had died in the past month.
WHERE THE ROAD DEATHS TOOK PLACE
"This is a small shire and the communities where these people lived will feel it... Everybody knows everybody here and so everyone is impacted because if they don't know the person directly, they know the family. So everybody is grieving," she said.
"Our hearts go out to those people and their families because these things just shouldn't happen."
Cr Kokocinski said road safety was a 'tripartite effort', involving the state government's regulation and road safety measures, local government's responsibility for road maintenance as well as the community.
"We all need to work together because in the end it is everybody's business," Cr Kokocinski said.
She said the council would have conversations with the police as well as take on board any recommendations detailed by the coroner to discuss if it could do anything to assist.
Ballarat Highway Patrol's Acting Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale said that while only two of the fatalities had occurred within the police service area since January 1, it was two too many.
A life lost is one life too many. We are still aiming for zero lives lost so we need people to really own their driving, to take care on the roads and be aware of their surroundings.Acting Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale
Expressing his frustration, he said police really needed the public to take responsibility to assist them to stop the carnage on the roads. He urged people not to drive when fatigued, not to speed, to avoid drugs and alcohol and to be respectful to other road users.
"Our roads are unforgiving, especially our rural roads," he said.
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While the main streets in the region were bustling with activity as tourists enjoyed the sunshine on an extended long weekend, locals quietly discussed what had occurred.
While police investigations are still ongoing as to the cause of the crash, several Hepburn Shire residents told The Courier they weren't surprised to learn of a fatality on the tree-lined Ajax Road due to several issues.
Paul Otway, who lives opposite the crash site, said he was woken by a loud bang and then heard a helicopter. While he said the road was not a busy thoroughfare, animals were a hazard.
"There are lots of kangaroos hopping around this area at night. As well as the fact there are no street lights, it makes things pretty difficult at night time," he said. "So I don't go out much at night."
Other neighbours, who did not wish to be named but who have lived in the region their entire lives, reiterated the danger of the road - known locally as 'tip road' - and the amount of people who speed along it.
One said there had been talk about town on Tuesday morning, with much of the conversation based on the fact residents were not surprised a car accident had occurred on that particular road.
"This road is shocking. It's like a race track," they said.
While the speed limit is 80, they said they only drive at 60 due to a fear of hitting an animal.
"We've got lots of animals around here, especially kangaroos, because the golf course is nearby and the green grass attracts them."
Living in the region throughout their lives, they have known a lot of people to die on the roads. However, the pair said the incident was particularly shocking, given that it was the fifth death on the region's roads since late December.
On December 29, 37-year-old Jess West and her five-year-old son Deighton were killed following a collision with a truck at Kingston.
Then, on January 16, a person died after losing control of their vehicle on the Clunes-Mount Cameron Road. It is believed the driver lost control of their car, which veered from the road, crashed through a fence and caught fire. The location of the crash is technically just outside the police and council boundary.
Further, just last week, on January 22, 25-year-old Nathan 'Nash' Cummings died after crashing into a tree at Coomoora. His funeral will be hosted later this week.
The street was blocked off for several hours on Tuesday morning while investigators assessed the scene.
Senior Constable Jeremy Freckleton, from Daylesford Police Station, responded to the accident and said the woman was found unresponsive by a Country Fire Authority volunteer who was returning from a call out.
He said police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash and exactly when it occurred, as it is understood the woman was found outside her vehicle.
While CFA volunteers, police and paramedics performed CPR, the woman died at the scene. An air ambulance was called but not required. Nobody else was injured as a result of the crash.
The woman's death came just hours after police wrapped up the statewide Operation Amity, which ran from 12am Friday until 11.59pm Monday evening. In Ballarat, 132 infringements were issued.
Two disqualified drivers, four unlicensed drivers and 20 unregistered vehicles were detected by police throughout the operation, and two vehicles were impounded.
Police conducted 2182 preliminary breath tests throughout the weekend. Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said it was disappointing that 10 of the offences were related to drink and drug driving, meaning the message not to drive while impaired was not getting through.
Another shocking statistic is that 83 people were issued infringements for speeding offences.
One person was caught travelling at 145 km/h at Inverleigh on Friday, while another person lost their licence for travelling 133km/h in a 110 zone.
In addition, five people were issued infringements for disobeying signals, three for seatbelt offences, five for mobile phone offences and one for cyclist offences.
Meanwhile, 57 infringements were issued in the Moorabool police service area, including 38 speeding offences.
Anyone who witnessed the collision at Hepburn or has information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
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