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Victoria’s road toll is skyrocketing despite police blitz

By Cameron Kirby, 08 May 2019 News

Victoria’s road toll is skyrocketing despite police blitz

Police continue to crack down on drivers, but the road toll is at a record high

Road deaths are up almost 50 percent year-to-date in Victoria, with one of the state’s top cops describing the trend as a “collective brain fade”.

As of midnight on May 6, 113 people have lost their lives in Victoria during the 2019 calendar year. At the same point last year that figure was 76 – an increase of 48.7 percent.

Read next: 2018 National Road Toll: fewer road deaths, but worrying trends continue

Some of the drastic percentage increase can be attributed to 2018’s road deaths, which were the lowest in over a decade – 213 people lost their lives on the state’s roads last year.

However, when compared to current trends, this year’s mortality rate on Victorian roads remains an outlier.

The five year average from 2014-2018 for the same period is 89 deaths, almost 27 percent lower than this year’s figure. The highest single year figure during that period prior to 2019 was 100 deaths, recorded in 2016.

The largest increase in deaths this year comes from males, with 86 fatalities compared to 51 in 2018, marking a 69 percent increase.

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Rural Victoria has also suffered, with 72 deaths so far this year compared to 39 last year, an increase of 85 percent. Melbourne has seen 41 drivers die on the roads so far in 2019, an increase of 11 percent compared to last year.

This trend continues when fatalities are considered in terms of the level of urbanisation at the crash site. A total of 70 deaths have occurred YTD on rural roads (up 63 percent) compared to 31 deaths in urban environments (up 24 percent).

Of this year’s road deaths, 18 were people who weren’t wearing a seat belt, while it has been found that those that died in a car crash were more likely to have drugs instead of alcohol in their system.

The drastic rise in road deaths comes amidst a flurry of blitzes from Victoria Police. It was announced in March that 300 police shifts would be added statewide during a 10-week crackdown funded by the TAC. This week VicPol announced a ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ campaign which aims to crack down on the laws that require drivers to slow to 40km/h if they see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing.

Read: Japan to fight road toll… by raising speed limit

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane pondered if the state’s drivers are suffering a “collective brain fade”, and “all just need to think about it" during a discussion with Melbourne radio station 3AW.

Assistant Commissioner Leane also claimed Victoria’s reputation as one of the safest places in the world to drive was being challenged.

Victoria’s record low road toll in 2018 equated to 3.3 deaths per 100,000 residents (using 2017 population data). Using the five-year average between 2013 and 2017 of 258 deaths per year, this average rises to 4.0 deaths per 100,000 residents. The national average is 4.6 when using the 1144 deaths that occurred on Aussie roads in 2018.

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For comparison, Germany’s road mortality rate is 4.0 per 100,000 residents, as is Denmark’s. Netherlands stands at 3.8, United Kingdom 3.1, Sweden 2.8, Norway 2.7, and Switzerland 2.7.

In response to the road toll, an emergency summit has been called for May 31, which will include representatives from the TAC, VicRoads, Victoria Police, Monash University Accident Research Centre, RACV, Road Trauma Support Services Victoria and motorcycle and cycling advocates.