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Traffic trauma cop slams rural roads, mobile phones

Picture this: In-car DVD players can draw police attention if the image is distracting other road users.

Speed limits, in-car distractions key to slowing car crashes, say police

General News logo16 Aug 2013

VICTORIA’S top road trauma cop has called on the state to cut speeds on country roads in an effort to to reduce trauma, and ban mobile phones in cars.

Detective-Sergeant Peter Bellion, a senior member of Victoria Police’s Major Collision Investigation Group, told a gathering of road safety experts last week that a 100km/h speed limit on many of the state’s undivided country roads was too high.

He told the Society of Automotive Engineers Australasia that even with airbags, two cars colliding head-on at 100km/h would “compromise the passenger compartment”, making this type of crash unsurvivable.

“Those type of crashes on our rural undivided roads still account for 45 per cent of road trauma here in Victoria.

“With a safer system, even though you’ve got a safer vehicle, you still have a high closing speed on an undivided country road,” Det-Sgt Bellion said.

“Why we have that 100km/h limit is just ridiculous, because if someone makes a minor mistake, it’s a double, a triple, or quadruple fatality.

“We know better. We know we can’t survive that, so why do we have that bloody speed limit?” he said.

“I’m going to keep pushing that until it gets changed.”

Det-Sgt Bellion said police would also urge the state to cut down on driver distractions in cars – including mobile phones paired to the in-car system via Bluetooth, and even satellite navigation devices.

He said even an in-car DVD player could be a major distraction for other drivers.

“I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but that in-car DVD there on the back of the headrest, if you saw that from driving in another vehicle, that is actually a road rule offence to the person that’s operating the car ... because it is actually a distraction situation,” he said.

“The road rules of Victoria, you can actually pull over a driver and issue an infringement notice in that situation, so why do we have it.”

Mobile phones were such a distraction that Sen-Det Bellion said they should be banned from cars in any capacity.

“In-car DVDs, mobile phones they’re a pain in the butt,” he said. “They are really causing a lot of crashes.”

Det-Sgt Bellion said police requested phone records after each crash, but the fortnight-long lead-time it took to get the phone records from the telecommunications companies meant the link between mobile phone and crashes was under-reported.

“Enforcement is not the solution to the mobile phone issue,” he said. “Victoria Police back in around 2000 when we first introduced that offence issued 16,000 infringement notices.

“In 2008 that increased to 54,000 infringement notices, and for every one of those infringement notices that we issued there would be at least 10 to 20 times more that a police officer would see but they haven’t been in a position to physically and safely intercept that motorist.

“It’s an issue that has to be overcome with technology, and from the vehicle safety point of view, if there’s something more we can do about that via Bluetooth systems and that sort of stuff, I’d like to see effectively phones banned completely in cars.”

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