Wake up or die: SES veteran warns drivers

STATE Emergency Service veteran Russell Pearson, whose crew attended two horror head-on smashes in which four people died at Berrybank last year, has pleaded with drivers to take regular breaks.

Mr Pearson, deputy controller of the Lismore SES unit, echoed claims by police that driver inattention is linked to many smashes.

“It’s taxing on members who attend bad accidents especially if it’s people you know,” Mr Pearson said.

“But we do our job.

“There are nine members in our unit and we cover the Glenelg and Hamilton highways, as well as other roads in a district extending from Cressy to Skipton, Darlington and Foxhow.

“Drivers should take regular stops and pay attention.” Mr Pearson and Corangamite Shire councillor Geoff Smith, of Derrinallum, said road conditions on the Berrybank section of the Hamilton Highway were not to blame for the crashes.

“It’s a divided roadway and the surface is in pretty good condition,” Cr Smith said.

“One can only speculate on what caused the smashes — it could be fatigue or inattention. We all need to pay attention when driving.”

Cr Smith did not agree with a suggestion aired nationally this week by an expert who suggested a 90 kilometres-an-hour limit on rural roads.

“I’ve driven rural roads all my life,” he said.

“You learn to drive to the conditions and stay alert.”

Mr Pearson agreed the highway at Berrybank was in good condition, but said he had noticed sections becoming increasingly channelled by heavy trucks.

Duverney CFA captain Barry White said the volume of traffic along the Hamilton Highway had increased immeasurably since the opening of the Geelong Ring Road more than five years ago.

He said the lack of passing lanes may have contributed to the rise in collisions in the Berrybank district.

“If you go back 10 years ago, you could drive on to the highway (from a side road) with only a casual glance,” Mr White said.

 “Now there’s a couple of cars every few minutes during the day.

“Traffic has really built up and it’s only grown since construction started on the dual highway between Geelong and Winchelsea.

“I think a lot of people from Hamilton, Warrnambool and so on just keep driving instead of taking a break.

“Maybe some passing lanes would help but I think it comes down to driver responsibility.”

Great South Coast group chairman Chris O’Connor said this week arterial roads in the region were inadequate and worse than other areas of the state.

The regional lobby group has asked for $220 million in funding for road improvements.

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