Drink drivers alarm

THE rate of drink driving on Latrobe Valley roads has left traffic police surprised and disappointed, as authorities ramp up their road safety campaigns ahead of Christmas.

Between 24 November and 7 December police recorded 30 drink driving offences locally.

“We’re very surprised we’re getting the results we are,” Latrobe Highway Patrol Sergeant Clint Wilson said.

“Obviously the message isn’t really getting across.”

Lawlessness on Latrobe Valley roads: 24 November to 7 December 2014

Multiple traffic operations and initiatives are underway locally, including an effort to target residential areas known as “Operation Surprise”.

“We’re going into areas where we know people take small journeys after there’s been some alcohol consumed,” Sgt Wilson said.

“That has netted us with a higher than expected drink driving rate.”

Sgt Wilson encouraged members of the community to report people who continually drove drunk to Crime Stoppers.

“If drivers are deciding to do the wrong thing, particularly on a regular basis, we want to know about it.”

Drink driving isn’t the only factor worrying police this Christmas.

Mobile phone use and failing to wear a seatbelt when driving are the statistics which most alarmed a Melbourne-based superintendent upon his visit to Morwell on Thursday.

Road Policing Command Superintendent Michael Granger reported 36 using-a-mobile-while-driving offences and 31 seatbelt offences in a string of lawless behaviour recorded between 24 November and 7 December.

Superintendent Granger said seatbelt offences were of great concern, given one out of seven fatalities occurred when people were not wearing seatbelts.

He said Victoria Police had recently announced drug-affected fatalities, including ice, had surpassed fatal collisions involving alcohol.

“Between now and in October, we’re in the process of educating every highway patrol officer in the use of fluid testing or roadside drug test.”

Superintendent Granger warned local drivers were not immune to collisions in their local area.

“We know that two thirds of people killed on local roads are local people,” he said.

“It comes down to people being familiar with the roads and perhaps not concentrating as they should.

“They’re perhaps engaging in risk-taking behaviour, such as not wearing a seatbelt because it’s only a short trip and using a phone because they know the road.”

Superintendent Granger said 57 per cent of Victorian road deaths this year occurred on country roads, and 51 per cent of those collisions occurred on back roads with 100 kilometre speed zones.

As part of the Summer Stay program, from 24 November to February, Superintendent Granger said police would have an increased presence, particularly on back roads.

“You’ll expect to see lots of police on our roads. I won’t declare the figures, but there will be lots of police on the back roads, not just the highways,” he said.

Sgt Wilson’s advice to holiday drivers included taking rest breaks, driving at an appropriate speed and being patient as more traffic hit the road.

“Don’t follow too close, stay left unless overtaking, be considerate of drivers towing trailers and caravans at speeds slower than the general traffic and be mindful learner drivers may be getting their hours up on long trips,” he said.