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Road risk over summer

Ready: members of the Bass Coast Highway Patrol are urging drivers to make sure they have a safe summer. They are Sergeant Jason Hullick, Scott Simcock, Greg Worcester and Simone Schroder.

ALCOHOL, fatigue, driver attitude and the state of South Gippsland’s roads combine to make this summer a particularly risky one for residents and visitors alike.

Despite protestations of extra money for road maintenance, the State Government has allowed our roads to deteriorate to an alarming state, with added danger at night or when it’s been raining and the pot holes are full of water and harder to see.

Some of the pot holes are like craters, with the Bass Highway between Inverloch and Leongatha a case in point.

A number of pot holed areas in the district have “road work” or “hazard ahead” signs, but not all do. Even though the “road work” signs often aren’t accompanied by any actual work, it is advisable to adhere to the suggested speeds because road damage is significant.

Added to the major risk is the fact that the last 12 days of the year are notorious for road fatalities.

Historically, there are an average 13.4 road deaths across Victoria over that 12-day period; that’s more than one death per day.

While the state’s road fatality statistics are reducing, those in rural Victoria don’t appear to be. In rural Victoria in 2011, there were 149 road deaths and this year, the number is the same.

An emerging issue for this area is single vehicle accidents.

Sergeant Jason Hullick, of the Bass Coast Highway Patrol said the issue has been flagged as one for local police to focus on.

It involves vehicles running off the road for no apparent reason. The majority are young people.

Sgt Hullick said alcohol and speed could be the cause, but driver inattention is increasing.

“Texting is becoming a major issue. We’re finding that is happening a lot and it’s very hard to police.”

But, he added, the overall picture is excellent, with a 50 per cent decrease in serious injury collisions in the region.

Nevertheless, the highway patrol is working with the TAC on a 2013 campaign called Save My Seat.

To be launched in January, the concept is for people to commit to each other for the following Christmas.

Sgt Hullick said it will run along the lines of, “Save me a seat at the table, I’ll be home for Chirstmas.”

This summer, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is trying to raise awareness of road safety by the use of sports teams and social media. Teaming up with Twenty20 Big Bash League teams and Melbourne Victory, the TAC hopes to connect online with young people who are most at risk of being seriously injured or killed on Victorian roads.

It’s a first and will allow people to create their own road safety messages for friends and family. Personalised messages can be submitted on the www.homesafely.com.au website or shared on Twitter with #Homesafely and @TACHomesafely.

When she launched the initiative, TAC chief executive officer, Janet Dore said, “We know that there is no one, single thing that will get the road safety message through to all young people. That’s why it’s important to use a range of media channels to spread the road safety message.

“More than 2000 young people between 18 and 25 are seriously injured on our roads each year and this figure is far too high.”

In 2011, 32 18-20 year olds died on our roads and this year, it’s 29. In the 21-25 year age group, 31 have died in 2011 and 2012. The numbers for the 26-29 year olds are 13 and 18 respectively.

Older people are at risk too, with 44 aged 70-plus dying on the state’s roads in 2011 and 43 in 2012.

And it isn’t only deaths.

Figures show in 2011, rural TAC claims involving hospital admissions numbered 1778.

Alcohol, drugs, extra traffic, driver attitude and fatigue are also inherent risks as people share Christmas and New Year conviviality with family and friends.

Mobile phone use while driving is one of the most common and dangerous activities distracting drivers and fatigue is a serious issue.

The TAC defines fatigue as physical and mental impairment brought about by inadequate rest over a period of time. We need seven to eight hours of good quality sleep each night and if we have less, there is a build up of sleep debt and drivers with sleep debt are at risk of nodding off at the wheel.

Going without sleep for 24 hours, then driving has a similar effect on performance as having a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.10, when the risk of a crash is seven times greater. The most common effects of fatigue on actual driving behaviour include difficulty keeping the car within a lane, drifting off the road, more frequent and unnecessary changes in speed, and not reacting in time to avoid dangerous situations such as turning to avoid an obstacle.

Symptoms of fatigue include yawning, heavy eyes, blurred vision and decrease in concentration. Fatigue can be felt on short trips as well as long ones.

So, by all means post a safety message on social media for your loved ones and friends, but remember to take care on the road yourself.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=5909

Posted by on Dec 27 2012. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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