MORE than half the road deaths in Victoria last year were on regional roads, including Wellington Shire.
That trend is continuing this year with the state’s road toll already standing at 88, some 17 per cent more than last year. Male drivers between 18 and 39 are the most at risk, according to this year’s statistics.
These figures prompted the Transport Accident Commission and Victorian country newspapers to launch a campaign last year called Talk the Toll Down.
It is a campaign aimed at every country town in Victoria, small and large, including Sale, Maffra, Heyfield, Stratford, Rosedale and surrounding areas.
The Gippsland Times is participating in the campaign because it wants to stop reporting on accidents where local families and friends are killed or injured.
“Many people in our readership area have been in that position at some time,” Gippsland Times general manager Lynne Smith said. “Many people have been affected in some way by an accident.”
At the campaign launch, TAC chief executive Janet Dore said the road toll figures highlighted the need for this grassroots campaign.
“Through the regional newspapers sharing their local stories of road trauma and highlighting local road safety issues, regional communities will be encouraged to keep safe, and keep each other safe, on the roads,” Ms Dore said.
“The TAC will be supporting the newspapers, as they encourage their communities to Talk the Toll Down.”
Since launching the campaign, the Gippsland Times has run many stories on the issue including the perspective of police and emergency services who are first on the scene and from victims.
Now the Gippsland Times is hosting a community forum on Friday April 20 in an attempt to bring the issue to the forefront of the community.
The forum will be officially opened by Deputy Premier and Police Minister Peter Ryan. Mr Ryan will be part of a panel comprising Wellington shire mayor Peter Cleary and representatives from the Police, CFA and other emergency services.
Each will make a short presentation then answer questions from the community.
Ms Smith hopes there will be a wide representation from the community attending the forum, especially young people who currently hold, or will soon be getting, their Learner’s Permit.
“We want to hear firsthand experiences from people in the hope that we can come up with some initiatives that may help Talk the Toll Down.”
The free forum will be held in the supper room of the Sale Memorial Hall at 6pm, Friday, April 20.