BY NATASHA SCHAPOVA
The number of lives lost on Victorian roads so far this year is closing in on the 2019 April figure, despite a significant drop in car travel due to COVID-19 restrictions.
On the first day of the Easter long weekend, 76 lives have been lost in fatal road collisions compared to 85 this time last year, according to the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).
2019 saw 266 lives lost, the highest number of road fatalities since 2016.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton earlier this week said less congestion on the road has led to a higher level of speeding in recent weeks.
A fatal collision between four cars and a truck in Harcourt North left two people dead and three in hospital last Friday night.
Operation Nexus began yesterday and will continue over the Easter long weekend, monitoring drink and drug driving, speeding, fatigue, distraction and seatbelt offences.
Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Libby Murphy said in a statement that while booze buses remain off the road, preliminary breath tests and drug tests will continue.
“We have seen 18 people killed on our roads since a State of Emergency was declared in Victoria,” she said.
“We don’t need any extra grief or stress in our community at this already challenging time.”
Jen Holmes lost her sister in 2009 during a head-on collision with a driver who was allegedly texting at the time.
“That’s the hardest phone call you ever get. She was dead instantly,” Ms Holmes said.
Ms Holmes said drivers' attitudes to road safety need to change.
“They can put it all in your face with the TAC ads, but unless it’s actually happened [to you], no one pays attention,” she said.
Road Trauma Support Services Victoria CEO Bernadette Nugent said there is a public misconception that only drivers taking extreme risks are in road accidents.
“People often assume that they are good drivers if they can drive fast or text and drive,” Ms Nugent said.
“The fact that they do either indicates they are not good drivers.”
Zero Road Toll, founded by David Quinn, focuses on educating drivers about road safety.
He said many drivers do not take speeding and mobile phone use seriously enough.
“A lot of people have the attitude that if [they] speed it doesn’t really make a difference because [they] have control of the car,” Mr Quinn said.
“But they’re not considering that if someone walks in front of their car, or another car crosses their path, their ability to stop in such a short space is unlikely.”
An Inquiry into the Increase in Victoria’s Road Toll will table a report to state parliament in November.
This inquiry will include an inspection into the success of the Towards Zero 2016-2020 Road Safety Strategy, which aimed to reduce deaths on the roads by 20 per cent and serious injuries on the road by 15 per cent within five years.
But for people like Jen Holmes, it is not getting any better.
“My family has just fallen apart. Everyone’s there [for you] at the start, but it’s not the start where you need all the help, it’s further on down the track,” Ms Holmes said.
Road Trauma Support Services Victoria offers free information and counselling to anyone impacted by a road collision.