Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Horror year on Shepparton roads

Thirteen people lost their lives on Shepparton roads in 2012, the most fatalities since at least 1994.

DARREN LINTON January 1, 2013 4:17am

Greater Shepparton has had its deadliest year on the roads for decades.

Barring any New Year’s Eve tragedy, the Shepparton police district was set to end 2012 with 13 lives lost on the roads.

Shepparton Highway Patrol Senior Sergeant Des Wright said this was the highest number of deaths since he started keeping detailed local statistics.

‘‘I’ve got statistics that go back to 1994 and this is the worst year we’ve had going back at least until then,’’ he said. ‘‘I would suggest you would have to go back to the 1970s when the road toll was out of control to find a higher toll.’’

The experienced traffic policeman said in all his years he had only ever seen one fatal crash that was completely accidental — when a tree limb fell on a passing car.

‘‘All of those (other) collisions were avoidable,’’ he said.

In 1995, the Shepparton region had 12 fatalities and there were 11 deaths in 2002, 2003 and 2007.

During recent years, the lowest road toll for the region was two in 2008.

‘‘It has been a bad year for us and we hope we don’t have any more,’’ Sen Sgt Wright said on the eve of 2013.

‘‘We’ve had a spike in the number of deaths, but I do expect there will be spikes from time to time,’’ he said.

He said highway patrol members were concerned about the number of drivers still willing to take risks on the road.

‘‘There’s an awful lot of people who do the right thing and drive sensibly, but there is a substantial percentage of people who like to take liberties,’’ he said.

Sen Sgt Wright said safe driving was about more than just obeying the road rules.

It included constant vigilance and awareness of surrounding traffic and pedestrians, and driving to the road and weather conditions.

‘‘All I would ask people to do is pay attention not just to what you are doing, but what else is happening around you,’’ he said.

Drink-driving remains a perennial problem in the region, which Sen Sgt Wright described as insidious because alcohol-affected drivers put others at risk when they drove.

Sen Sgt Wright said hoon driving, while still prevalent, had been affected by tougher laws including vehicle seizures.

‘‘There is still a bit of hoon driving going on,’’ he said.

‘‘There is a little club of these people and it is secretive cloak-and-dagger stuff with emails and texts and secret locations.’’

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