‘Absolutely tragic’ period

Families, police officers and whole communities across regional Victoria and NSW have been ‘devastated’ by the continuously high country road toll, say two of the highest-ranking police officers from NSW and Victoria.

Victoria Police Road Policing Command Superintendent John Fitzpatrick and NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy converged on the state border between Yarrawonga and Mulwala, to send a united message that too many local people are dying on country roads. 

Yarrawonga-born Mr Corboy said, having spent a decade of his career working as a Constable in Albury and Corowa, he understands the community heartache behind every crash.

“For the last two weeks we've been pleading with motorists, pleading with passengers and members of the community to help us stop these deaths on regional roads,” he said.

“I was stationed here on the Border for a number of years in the 80s, having to attend crashes where people died –  most often in the country you do know them.

“You have to go tell people you know, that their loved ones have been critically injured or killed in a car crash.”

Mr Corboy said in regional areas the pain of fatalities was felt acutely.

“NSW and Victoria have both in the last week had multiple fatalities where people have been incinerated – that is particularly devastating not only on families but on officers who attend those scenes,” he said.

Superintendent Fitzpatrick said 150 Victorian lives have been lost on regional roads, compared to 104 in metro areas. 

He said 642 lives had been lost in NSW and Victoria this year.

“That’s a lot of families that will never see their loved ones again,” he said.

“While NSW and Victoria are separated geographically we share the exact same types of road trauma.

Five people have died during NSW Police’s Operation Safe Arrival, and 22 people across NSW’s southern region this year.

Both officers said the community must work with police to reduce the road toll, by taking care with technology.

“Quite often the shortest route (on your GPS device) is not the safest route,” Superintendent Fitzpatrick said.

“By taking a route that’s a bit quicker you’re jeopardising your life and the lives of the loved ones in your car.”

Mr Corboy said drivers using phones while behind the wheel was a ‘constant battle’ for police across the country.

“Until the community starts making people embarrassed to do it we will continue to see it done,” he said.

“We can’t book our way out of this, we need the community to start saying it’s not good enough.”