Road safety plea Police say ‘take responsibility’

August 23, 2017

Victoria Police has issued a warning to all motorists following a particularly bad period on local roads.

Victoria Police has issued a warning to all motorists following a particularly bad period on local roads.

Wangaratta divisional traffic adviser and highway patrol manager Senior Sergeant Darren Wittingslow said there seemed to be a sense of entitlement nowadays, an attitude of ‘I’m here, doing my thing, get out of the road’.

‘‘Each time we pass another car or a truck, we form a contract with that person — there’s a level of trust we apply with each other, and sometimes someone doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain, so to speak,’’ Sen Sgt Wittingslow said.

‘‘In a one-week period ending last Thursday, in the Moira Shire alone we had three fatalities and two seriously injured,’’ he said.

‘‘All of these were avoidable — and all will have tragic consequences for family and friends and for the communities for a long time to come.

‘‘Knocking on doors to inform relatives is not a job that anyone likes doing, it has an impact on emergency personnel, particularly that there’s been so many in a short period of time.’’

Sen Sgt Wittingslow said the recent accidents stood out in his 27 years of road policing in the northeast of Victoria.

‘‘It’s one of the worst weeks I’ve experienced,’’ he said.

‘‘They do come in clusters, for no reason — it’s just one of those things.

‘‘Just extrapolating a little bit further, for this year, since the first of January, of the 13 fatalities across the region, six have occurred in Moira — that’s 46 per cent of fatalities in Moira.

‘‘And in relation to serious injury collisions, 22 of the 81 across the region have occurred in Moira — that’s 27 per cent,’’ Sen Sgt Wittingslow said.

‘‘Given that the division represents six local government areas, those figures are quite high.’’

Sen Sgt Wittingslow said police put these statistics down to a range of factors, including Moira Shire’s cross-gridded road network.

‘‘That certainly doesn’t help,’’ he said.

‘‘However, that’s been there for a long time as we know, and at the end of the day we can’t blame roads, we can’t blame weather — it’s up to drivers to take responsibility for their own actions.

‘‘And when they do sit behind the wheel of a motor car, their first priority is to drive the car, not to be talking to someone else or daydreaming or looking at something else or getting distracted.

‘‘The consistent message I want to put out for road safety is that driving a motorcar is most likely the most dangerous thing anyone will ever do in their entire life — and it needs to be treated accordingly.’’

Sen Sgt Wittingslow said that overwhelmingly, it was local people who were involved in local road trauma.

‘‘It’s local people being complacent,’’ he said.

‘‘They are either doing or not doing something at a particular time and it depends on what is around them at the time as to the consequences.

‘‘Some people may go through an intersection controlled by a stop or give way sign without stopping or even looking, but there’s nothing coming the other way — it just depends on what’s around them as to the consequences.

‘‘We just ask people to take care, to take their role as a driver on our roads seriously.

‘‘We know anecdotally and from attending all the accidents that the mere fact that each and every one of them was avoidable, that means the driver has done — or hasn’t done — something they should have.

‘‘So whether that’s not paying attention, a bit of fatigue, changing the radio station, looking at their mobile phone, the driver is responsible.’’

Sen Sgt Wittingslow said police were hoping local people would approach driving in a responsible manner and make safety their number one focus every time they get behind the wheel.

- Grahame Whyte

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