Police ‘astounded’ by Victorians still not wearing seatbelts as road deaths surge

Police ‘astounded’ by Victorians still not wearing seatbelts as road deaths surge

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Victoria Police says it is appalled by the number of people who are not wearing seatbelts amid a disturbing surge in fatalities on the state’s roads.

Police have so far confirmed that 12 of the 113 drivers and passengers killed between January 1 and June 30 were not wearing seatbelts.

Four people were killed in a crash in Bochara in May.Credit: Nicole Cleary

However, many of those crashes are still being investigated, including the horror crash at Bochara in the state’s south-west in May that killed four people. Police believe some people in the car weren’t wearing seat belts.

Road Policing Acting Assistant Commissioner Martin O’Brien said police were seeing too many crashes in which people were not wearing seatbelts – and suffering serious and fatal injuries.

“In a number of them, if they had been worn it would have been a vastly different outcome,” O’Brien said. “Belts, apart from anything else in the vehicle, will save lives.”

The Transport Accident Commission has recorded a total of 168 road deaths – including people who were not inside vehicles such pedestrians and cyclists – so far in 2023, which is 30 per cent more than the five-year average for the same period. This has prompted some experts to question whether the state’s road safety strategy has failed.

Police data from recent years shows up to 20 per cent of drivers and passengers killed in crashes in Victoria were not wearing a seat belt. Investigators, historically, are unable to determine whether belts are being worn in up to a third of crash deaths.

Victoria became the first jurisdiction in the world to make seatbelts compulsory in 1970 and the TAC says they halve the likelihood of death and serious injury in a crash.

O’Brien said he was astounded by the number of people caught not wearing seatbelts by the new roadside cameras rolled out in April.

The four new cameras – which peer into vehicles and use artificial intelligence to detect potential illegal activity – captured 4290 drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts and 2870 drivers using mobile phones during a trial in April and May.

New cameras captured drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts and 2870 drivers using mobile phones during a trial.

“Increased enforcement has an effect,” O’Brien said. “But ultimately people need to understand and get the message that they protect their lives.”

The TAC surveyed 2700 Victorians in 2021 and 97 per cent said they wore a seatbelt “all the time”, with no significant difference between age, gender or where they lived.

Australasian College of Road Safety chief executive Dr Ingrid Johnston said it was not surprising that the small number of people who don’t wear belts made up a relatively large proportion of those being killed.

Johnston said there was a role for police enforcement, but it was also necessary to look at why some people did not wear them, which could include them not being designed to fit larger or shorter occupants.

“Often it is too darn uncomfortable,” she said. “If you are driving long distances and you’ve got a seatbelt that is hurting you to wear, then that’s a design problem and something vehicle manufacturers need to be looking at.”

Some vehicles had seat belts that could be better adjusted to fit different body types to make them more comfortable and better at protecting the wearer, Johnston said.

Motorists caught by Victoria’s new AI roadside cameras during the trial period were not fined, but the state started using them for enforcement on July 1.

That could lead to a significant increase in the number of motorists being fined: Victoria Police issued 4680 seatbelt infringement notices in 2022, while the cameras detected almost the same number of seatbelts offences in just two months.

The fine for not wearing a seatbelt correctly is $385 and using a phone while driving attracts a $577 fine and the loss of four demerit points.

Get the day’s breaking news, entertainment ideas and a long read to enjoy. Sign up to receive our Evening Edition newsletter here.

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article