Police blitz to reduce country fatalities

POLICE will target distracted and fatigued drivers in the Wimmera in a bid to reduce the road toll.

Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said road crashes in the Wimmera were mostly caused by distracted or fatigued drivers.

Mr Hill visited Highway Patrol members at Horsham Police Station on Tuesday, as part of a tour of regional Victoria.

He said risky driver behaviour, including speeding, impairment and distraction were causing road crashes.

"People are not concentrating and are using devices in their car,'' Mr Hill said.

"Last weekend there were a number of people killed in rural Victoria, mostly single vehicles going off the road into fixed objects like trees.

"When you are travelling at 100 kilometres an hour and hit something you are going to be killed or seriously injured it's a fact of life.''

Chief Commissioner Ken Lay appointed Mr Hill to the role in July to focus on road policing.

"It's a clear message to our members and all Victorians that road safety is a strong focus of our organisation into the future,'' Mr Hill said.

"Ken Lay has asked me to identify new and innovative ways to protect vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.''

Mr Hill said police needed to adopt a safe systems approach, a world-wide trend, to prevent road trauma.

"We acknowledge people are going to make mistakes, but how do we develop safe systems to protect them?'' he said.

Mr Hill said safer infrastructure, such as road barriers and safer vehicles, where manufacturers developed crash avoidance technology, were two key factors in the safe systems approach.

The third factor was the police making sure there were safer drivers on the road.

"We'll be targeting people who continually offend,'' he said.

"Road safety is everyone's responsibility. There needs to be more conversations around the dinner table.

"Every family affected by road fatalities says they never thought it would happen to them.

"People need to take on board how they will protect themselves and other road users. It's time people abide by road rules, be cautious, be patient and more importantly, be careful.''

Mr Hill said last year's road toll was 287 and the year before it was 288.

"We were tracking to under last year's total but last weekend's fatalities is a concern in how we will deliver a record low road toll,'' he said.

Mr Hill said he was an advocate for lowering the legal blood alcohol levels.

"There's thinking around blood alcohol levels, in Europe, that separate drinking and driving,'' he said.

''There's a social responsibility where people are taking responsibility for road safety themselves.

"In Sweden, they have lowered the legal blood alcohol level from .05 to .02 per cent and there's been a significant reduction in road trauma.''

Mr Hill said the latest research showed people were up to three times more likely to be involved in a crash if their blood alcohol level was between .00 and .49 per cent.

He said police would also focus more on detecting drivers affected by drugs in the future.

"There are recidivist offenders, and the magnitude of drug driving is yet to be identified,'' he said.

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