By Colin MacGillivray
MITCHELL police have urged caution on the region’s roads after fatal collisions in Beveridge and Broadford in the past fortnight.
Victoria Police last week announced it would be targeting dangerous drivers, including drink and drug drivers, across the state from October 22 to November 8 in a campaign known as Operation Saturn.
Mitchell Police Service Area Inspector Peter Koger said people would notice an increased police presence on Mitchell Shire’s roads during that period.
Insp Koger said Operation Saturn was a combination of what would normally be two separate operations targeting dangerous driving: Operation Scoreboard for the AFL grand final, and Operation Furlong for the Melbourne Cup long weekend.
“Because the grand final was pushed back later this year they’ve combined the two and called it Operation Saturn,” he said.
“Generally we’re going to be targeting drink and drug driving in the division over the course of the operation.
“We’re doing a lot more high-visibility patrols of the main arterial roads.
“There are some other roads we’ll be targeting, which are not necessarily the Goulburn Valley Highway or the Hume Freeway, but places like the Northern Highway, Seymour-Pyalong Road, Seymour-Tooborac Road and Heathcote-Nagambie Road.
“They’re narrower and don’t have wire-rope barriers, but they are used by people travelling up and down, and tend to be our areas of more serious-injury collisions and fatalities. We’re going to have a fair amount of emphasis on those areas.”
Insp Koger said people needed to exercise caution and restraint on the roads as regional Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions continued to ease.
“We will mainly be focusing on speeding, drink driving, drug driving and we’re always targeting distraction with mobile phones,” he said.
“Now COVID restrictions have changed for regional areas, there will be more people out because they can attend hotels, cafes, and restaurants, so we’ll be targeting those sorts of areas as well.
“People have been cooped up, so now they want to go out and celebrate and we’ve got to make sure they’re doing the right thing.
“If people think they’re not currently getting tested because of COVID, that’s not correct. We will be wearing all the personal protection equipment and conducting breath tests and drug tests.
“We are out there, and our focus has turned more towards road trauma now that it’s becoming a bit more COVID-normal.”
Insp Koger said a fatal collision at Broadford on Friday and another at Beveridge earlier this month were tragic reminders that people needed to take road safety seriously.
“The fatality we had at Broadford was an unusual one, where a single vehicle left the road and collided with a tree,” he said.
“We haven’t had too many fatals on the Hume in recent years, and it is very unusual to have a fatal where someone gets around a wire-rope barrier and [hits] a tree in a single vehicle.
“It could be fatigue, it could be drink or drugs, it could be suicide. It could be any of those reasons, but at the moment we’re not sure.
“I believe the road trauma statistics should be better than what they are considering there are fewer vehicles on the road at the moment.
“I think people have maybe dropped the ball a little bit with regard to road safety, and they should be aware they’re not immune to these kinds of incidents just because they’re coming out of lockdown.”