Be safe at Christmas

Christmas is a time for families. It's a busy time of the year when we finalise our work commitments, do that last minute shopping, catch up with friends and attend numerous social events.

It's a hectic and stressful time of year. Most people have a lot of things on their mind other than driving safely and are not necessarily concentrating on the task at hand.

Phone calls, text messages, setting GPS destinations or skipping CD tracks until you have the perfect Christmas tune can have one thing in common. They can all be deadly driver distractions.

Over the next few weeks we will see an increase in pedestrian traffic across Victoria. Local shopping centres will be inundated with exhausted customers. There will be more people on the roads heading to unfamiliar shopping precincts and entertainment venues.

With schools across the state breaking up for the holiday period, we can also expect to see more children out and about on push bikes and on foot.

This is a time for vigilance for all road users. Everyone needs to be alert, focussed and behave responsibly to ensure we all get to enjoy our Christmas with family and friends.

The use of mobile phones is currently our biggest driver distraction issue. The recent increase in the penalty for the use of a mobile phone whilst driving is reflective of the danger this creates.

But this is not just about the use of mobile phones, this is about all driver distractions.

Driving is a complex task and requires full concentration. Any distraction can impair a driver's reaction time, ability to maintain speed and position on the road and general awareness of other road users.

Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds when driving at 40 km/h means you are effectively travelling blind for 22 metres.

Our intelligence informs us that drivers up to the age of 24 have the highest frequency of fatal and serious collisions where driver distraction is involved. However, they are not the only age group that are getting behind the wheel and being distracted by technology.

In the lead up to Christmas and into the New Year you can expect to see an increased police presence on the roads.

We will be focusing on the fatal five: speed, impairment, distraction, fatigue and seat belts. Over the next few weeks police will be deployed to the central business district of your suburb or town, targeting distraction and seat belt offences.

Why? Our intelligence suggests that this is an area where we need to concentrate our efforts to directly influence road user behaviour and prevent potential serious injury collisions and fatalities.

We aim to protect our vulnerable road users.

Our officers will be asked to ensure that people are not using their mobile phones and are wearing restraints while driving.

They will be monitoring pedestrians to ensure that they are crossing the roads at appropriate places and times.

They will be there as a constant reminder to all road users to switch off the technology and switch on while driving.

I make no apologies for this. Every driver, rider or pedestrian that our police members interact with, or every penalty notice or warning they issue, may just be the reminder or intervention needed to prevent a fatality or serious injury.

My wish this Christmas is that you are surrounded by your loved ones and that no family has to experience the pain and suffering associated with road trauma.

Sadly however, the reality is that we could have another 10 people killed and 250 seriously injured on our roads before the end of the year.

Our police members will be doing their upmost to make sure that everyone travels home safely this Christmas and all that we ask is that you take personal responsibility and concentrate on the task at hand.

Please make an effort to ensure your family has no ungiven gifts this Christmas.

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