Horror car crash victim Robert 'Chub' Davie is using his tragic experience to make a difference to local roads in the south-west, so that no-one else has to endure what he did.
Mr Davie was pulled up at roadworks just metres from his Portland home when a 65-tonne log truck ploughed into the back of three stationary vehicles at roadworks, including his in March last year. A woman died at the scene and four others were airlifted.
"I spent eight weeks in hospital, four of us were flown to Melbourne, a lady was killed," he said.
"If that road had been built properly in the first place we wouldn't have needed road works, this wouldn't have happened."
He has had multiple operations on his legs and now has to rely on the support of a walking stick for the rest of his life.
Mr Davie is now a passionate roads advocate, and showed up to the regional road safety forum in Portland on Thursday night along with over 100 locals to have his say on how to make roads safer.
"I was in a really bad accident and the Transport Accident Commission in many respects has been fantastic, but there's some areas that they're not that good," he said.
"What concerns me is that we just had a night here tonight, but what happens now? That's why I asked for a time frame.
"If something is done about it that's great, the most important issue is to get our roads repaired. Fix them, and fix them once."
'Unprecendented' road trauma across the state
It has been a devastating year to date on Victoria's roads, with 185 deaths, compared with 124 at the same time last year - an increase of 49 per cent.
The majority of these deaths have occurred on regional roads, where 106 people have died.
Last year, eight people died on roads in the south-west region and a further 86 people were seriously injured.
So far this year, 12 people have died on the roads in Corangamite, Glenelg, Moyne, Southern Grampians, Warrnambool and West Wimmera.
"It's good that the community has been given the opportunity to speak about their concerns about the road toll and road safety," Portland station commander and acting senior sergeant Gavin Slade said.
"The majority of people I spoke to tonight, they're worried about our roads and heavy vehicles.
"In country areas if you leave the road for a particular reason whether you're distracted, you're speeding, you're affected by alcohol, you're going to collide with a fixed object. We have a lot of trees around our roads.
"Over a long period of time they are the major factors of our collisions that result in serious injuries or fatalities. If we looked at a year, this year in particular that's not the case, but over a long period of time it has been the case."
He said drivers need to help police bring the road toll down.
We can't do this by ourselves. We need the community on board to help usPortland station commander and acting senior sergeant Gavin Slade
"We can't do this by ourselves. We need the community on board to help us," he said.
"Drivers need to take responsibility for their driving, it's not just an every day event they need to concentrate, give advice to their kids and their family members if their behaviour is not right.
"They need to help us combat what's going on."
Rural roads treated same as metro, says Roads Minister
Minister for Roads, Road Safety and the TAC Jaala Pulford said regional roads get just as much attention at metropolitan ones.
The running line of commentary at the roads forum at the Portland Yacht Club on Thursday night was that regional roads get less attention than metropolitan roads.
But the Minister denied those claims.
"That's not true" was the Minister's response when the question was put to her by The Standard.
"I have lived most of my life in country Victoria, I go home tomorrow via Mortlake and Lismore and when I come to Warrnambool from Ballarat I don't come on the freeway," she said.
"Mostly I zip through the back roads, I know them pretty well because I come on a reasonably regular basis and have done so for 12 years as member in this region.
"You wouldn't want to be in a head-on collision on any of them."
When asked again if she thought those back roads to be of good quality, Ms Pulford said some were in need of improvement.
"It all depends on the relative point of comparison. So, are they of the same condition as the Princes Freeway? No they're not but they carry a lot less volume and a lot less people," she said.
"Are some of them in need of significant improvement? Yes. Are many of them better or getting better? Yes.
"We don't shy away from the fact that we've got a lot to do."
Ms Pulford highlighted that only two per cent of road accidents are caused by the condition of the road.
First responders have their say
Charlie Debono and Ray Polaski have both been involved with the State Emergency Service for over 30 years.
They both said more education is needed to reduce the region's road toll.
"There needs to be less vegetation close to the roads, there's too many trees on the roadside and people are hitting them at high rates," said Mr Debono, who is the Heywood SES controller.
"Education is also major factor, we need more education for international people who visit this region and get behind the wheel, we need to educate young people on the dangers of mobile phone use while driving, and we need to educate people about speed.
"We are the first ones out to many of these accidents, we have seen many fatalities and more needs to be done."
Mr Polaski has over 70 years' experience in first responding and is now the deputy controller at Portland SES.
He said the condition of local roads are not up to standard.
"My biggest concern is the condition of the road surfaces," he said.
"People also need to make sure they have roadworthy vehicles, that they are checking their tyres and keeping up the maintenance of their cars.
"There's too many gadgets in cars these days, driver distraction is becoming a big problem."
'Fix our rural roads'
Natasha Frankensteiner, of Hamilton, has been running the 'Fix our rural roads' Facebook page for eight years.
"In that eight years nothing has been getting done with the roads," she said.
"I started it because I got sick of my windscreen getting smashed on the roads, I was going through three or four windows a month.
"The way I see it, our cars have to be roadworthy, so why aren't the roads roadworthy for us to drive our cars on?"
She said the current solution to road problems has been to reduce the speed limit.
"The roads are bad anywhere that the trucks have been, and I'm not blaming the truck drivers, it's their workplace and livelihood," she said.
"But we need constant upkeep of the roads for the heavy onslaught of the heavy vehicles using them.
"It's the trucks that are wrecking the roads, and like I say it's not their fault, it's the government that won't listen."
South-west roads need fixing
Member for South West Coast and Shadow Minister for Rural Roads Roma Britnell said the people sent a very clear message to Minister for Roads Jaala Pulford - that for road safety to improve, the Andrews Labor government needs to address the condition of road surfaces across the south-west.
"Roads is the number one issue that people here are upset about in south-west Victoria, they come to my office constantly," she said.
"The state of our roads has been a real feature tonight, along with the other areas where better education and speed being a factor.
"You can see quite clearly the condition of the roads is what people have been focusing on.
She said the community just wants to see roads fixed.
"This has all been common sense tonight, it's a different focus I think to what people thought. They thought they were going to have a say about how bad the roads were, not to form a strategy for Towards Zero for next year," Ms Britnell said.
"They're really quite keen to see the roads fixed.
"We know we have increased product coming out of our region, we're contributing so much to the state's coffers by producing more products that go to markets and bring in taxation dollars for the state.
"Therefore this government has an obligation to get the roads fixed and fixed properly so that the roads stand up to the traffic."
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