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‘They’re not just numbers’: Horror year on Victorian roads rounds out decade

“And I think that’s really important to know – they’re not just numbers, they are people who leave behind very dear and loved ones.”

In 2017 and 2018, authorities celebrated reductions in the metropolitan road toll, as well as a decline in the number of fatalities on country roads. But 2019 painted a grimmer picture.

We need to send a clear tougher, stronger message to the community because the community is clearly not hearing this message.

Jaala Pulford

Drivers are becoming complacent and apathetic to road safety messages, Ms Murphy said, as she implored with people to put away their mobile phones, wear their seatbelts, pay attention to their surroundings and obey the speed limits.

Almost 900 people have been given an infringement notice since December 13 for using their mobile phones while driving.

Road Safety Minister Jaala Pulford said the state government was considering all of its options for newer – and perhaps – tougher penalties for drivers distracted by their mobile phones.

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“We need to send a clear, tougher, stronger message to the community, because the community is clearly not hearing this message, and so we’re open to new ways to do this,” Ms Pulford said.

“We have reflected on [the increase in the road trauma], I’ve reflected on this, every moment of every day this year.”

She hasn’t been able to identify what it was that made 2019 such a horror year but says this year’s road safety campaign will focus heavily on education, prevention and enforcement.

Last year there were 145 deaths in country Victoria, up 33 per cent from 109 deaths in 2018. Single fatality collisions increased to 228, compared to 193 last year.

May and February were our horror months, in which 33 lives were lost in each month, while August had the lowest number of fatalities, with 15 people dying.

Men were over-represented in the road toll, making up 75 per cent of the fatalities.

The buck ultimately stops with drivers, Ms Murphy said.

“We can’t be everywhere so we need the help of all of you … as individuals and drivers, and for people to help with the messaging of police.

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“We’ve got a really long way to go to make the community understand what distraction does. If you drive and look at your mobile phone in a 100km/h speed zone and you are doing 100km, you are likely to lose 60 metres in distraction. What does that mean for the risk to other road users and to yourself?”

The new year’s first fatality occurred just two hours after midnight, when a motorcyclist died in a collision in Jacana, in Melbourne’s north.

Police are investigating whether speed was a factor in the collision.

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