AFTER four deaths on south-west roads already this year, shocked police are running multiple operations to try to prevent further fatalities as thousands of visitors descend on the region over Chinese New Year.
The region’s four tragic deaths in five weeks are deeply concerning emergency authorities after four people died in the first nine months of 2018 with a total of nine fatalities for the entire year.
With thousands of tourists heading to the Great Ocean Road and beyond over Chinese New Year, south-west police and Parks Victorias are working together to minimise risk around the Twelve Apostles in particular by dropping the speed limit to 20km/h.
South-west police road safety manager Senior Sergeant Chris Asenjo said there were two road safety operations currently running in the region covering the Warrnambool, Moyne, Corangamite, Glenelg and Southern Grampians council areas.
"Operation Loch Ard targets the Chinese New Year in anticipation of heavy vehicle traffic at tourist hotspots along the Great Ocean Road," he said.
"That operation involves Parks Victoria and VicRoads reduced speed limits in high tourist areas - such as the Twelve Apostles and Gibson Steps - to 20km/h."
Senior Sergeant Asenjo said the operation was employing additional resources for the Chinese New Year celebrated between February 5 and 19.
"It's a joint operation involving the Geelong, Colac and Warrnambool highway patrol units," he said.
"They'll be patrolling the Great Ocean Road and enforcing those new speed limits as well as providing a rapid response to any road trauma."
The road policing chief said Operation Apostle was also being run.
"That operation involves additional shifts, being funding externally by VicRoads, along the Great Ocean Road and roads linking with the Great Ocean Road," he said.
"That's a joint initiative involving Victoria Police and VicRoads which started on January 24 and runs into March."
Senior Sergeant Asenjo said a fatality at Stonyford on Saturday was the last accident involving a death after three people died on south-west roads during January.
A 40-year-old Stonyford district man died in an accident early Saturday morning on the Cobden-Stonyford Road.
He failed to negotiate a bend, his vehicle nose-dived and flipped several times.
The driver was ejected from his vehicle and died at the accident scene.
Police will make inquiries into whether he was wearing a seatbelt.
"Last year we had nine fatalities in the south-west," Senior Sergeant Asenjo said.
"In the first five weeks of this year we've had four. Four people had died on south-west roads last year up until mid September and that was too many. We're aiming for zero.
"We have a lot of catching up to do."
Senior Sergeant Asenjo said road safety was a police priority.
"These accidents involve the same risk factors - impairment, fatigue, distraction, not wearing seatbelts and speed," he said.
"If you have multiples of those factors then you are almost certain to be involved in road trauma, especially on high speed country roads."
The road safety boss said that due to a higher than usual road trauma statistics in the Glenelg region that Hamilton highway patrol unit members were assisting Portland officers.
"We have a coordinated regional response. We understand that roads across the region are connected and an at-risk driver could be travelling across the region," he said.
"Road safety is a community issue. It's not just about the conditions of south-west roads.
"If anyone has any suggestions about road safety please get in contact with your local police," he said.
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