Senior police are concerned about the increasing number of drivers being caught for high-range drink driving or impaired by drugs across the Ballarat region.
The concerns come amid a review of the 2021 road toll, which saw 10 road fatalities in the wider Ballarat region during 2021, one fewer than 2020, but still 10 too many according to Ballarat Highway Patrol's Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale.
Across the state, 236 people lost their lives on the road - the third lowest road toll since records began to be kept in the 1970s - but 25 more than the previous year despite significant periods of low traffic volumes because of COVID-19 restrictions.
In spite of the state-wide increase, regional Victoria recorded its second-lowest number of lives lost on record with 119 deaths, which is down from the 126 in 2020.
There were 117 deaths in Melbourne and its suburbs, compared with 84 in 2020.
Victoria also saw an increase in single vehicle fatal crashes, which accounted for 46 lives lost, compared with 33 in 2020.
Alarmingly, 36 people who died on the roads in 2021 were not wearing a seatbelt, and 96 fatalities occurred in vehicles more than 10 years old that often lack modern safety features.
There was also a significant increase in the number of motorcyclists who died, with 41 deaths recorded in 2021, up from 32 in 2020. One of the first lives lost on Victorian roads in 2022 was a motorcyclist in Craigieburn.
During the recent statewide Christmas Operation Roadwise blitz, 18 drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs were detected in the Ballarat, Moorabool, Pyrenees, Hepburn and Golden Plains shires, continuing a trend of greater numbers of impaired drivers seen throughout the year.
All that trauma has a cost. It impacts those directly involved, it impacts those within their network of people, and impacts those that attend the collisions as well- Sen Sgt Stuart Gale
Sen Sgt Gale said every road death had significant impacts not just for the family of the deceased but more broadly,.
"Ten (deaths in 2021) is still 10 too many and it's quite alarming to still see these fatalities," Sen Sgt Gale said.
"All that trauma has a cost. It impacts those directly involved, it impacts those within their network of people, and impacts those that attend the collisions as well. I see that more than ever with my people - it directly affects them as it does all emergency services personnel."
Across western Victoria 69 lives were lost in 2021 - most recently on December 27 when two women died after a head-on accident on the Western Highway at Laharum - compared to 72 in 2020.
And while the death toll is counted, it does not take in to account those involved in road accidents who are left with serious, often life-changing, injuries.
"Far too many families feel the pain of losing a loved one or having their lives changed forever due to serious injury, which is why we're continuing to make significant investment in education, technology, infrastructure and vehicle safety to end road trauma," said Victoria's Roads and Road Safety minister Ben Carroll.
"We have looked out for each other over the last two years and now as Victorians enjoy travelling and the holidays in the new year let's carry that attitude with us and help each other stay safe by being calm and taking it easy on the roads."
Sen Sgt Gale said people needed to drive appropriately, and show courtesy to other road users. "Drive at appropriate speeds, don't drink and drive; that has been a concern this year the drink driving especially with high range readings.
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"It's more than expected and it has been alarming for the year to see those high range readings coming through. Impaired driving is a great concern ... and drug driving still outstrips drink driving."
Sen Sgt Gale said most drivers were responsible on the road, it was just a small minority "taking unacceptable risks, speeding, driving while impaired, fatigued, or distracted by mobile phones".
Transport Accident Commission chief executive Joe Calafiore said Victoria's road safety agencies were working together to protect road users but everyone needed to play their role.
"Whether you're driving, riding or crossing the road, please make the right choices - pay extra attention, share the road safely, click in your seat belt, stick to the speed limit and don't drive drunk or on drugs," he said.
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