A drug-addled driver who suffered a life-changing brain injury after he crashed a stolen van on the Hopkins Highway is a "walking and talking general deterrence", a south-west lawyer says.
Travis Carmen, 41, of no fixed address, was repeatedly caught driving high on ice or cannabis in the lead up to a head-on collision that left him with slurred speech and memory problems.
It was just before 6am on May 27 when the stolen Toyota Hiace van he was driving drifted onto the wrong side of the Hopkins Highway at Purnim, hitting a blue Skoda sedan head-on.
The van came to rest on its roof at the scene, which was littered with glass and other debris from the vehicles.
Carmen was ejected through the front windscreen and airlifted to a Melbourne hospital with head injuries. Blood tests later revealed he had ice in his system.
The driver of the sedan was transported to Warrnambool Base Hospital with minor injuries.
Both vehicles were written off.
Warrnambool last year earnt itself the unenviable title of having the fourth highest number of drug drivers in the state.
Police nabbed 64 people for the offence in 2018, putting the city behind only three other cities - Wodonga (88 drug drivers), Frankston (67) and Melton (66).
Police prosecutor Sergeant Mick Graham said this year's road toll was significantly higher than previous years, with the main factors including drugs, alcohol and a lack of sleep.
"Our country roads have had a lot higher results of accidents, serious injury collisions and deaths," he said.
"The community needs to be informed that this sort of driving - drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, is an issue that needs to be denounced."
Carmen was caught drug driving in Warrnambool and Woolsthorpe on three occasions between July 25 and October 14 last year.
The following month he travelled to Melbourne and stole a Hyundai Tucson worth $8000 from a Noble Park business. He was arrested at a Dandenong address on April 22 and found in possession of stolen goods, including a credit card.
Then on May 27, Carmen was driving the stolen van south on Hopkins Highway towards Warrnambool when it collided head-on with the victim's sedan. A search of the van located registration plates believed to be stolen from Melbourne, as well as tools stolen during a burglary at Dennington.
Carmen was this week jailed for nine months after he pleaded guilty in Warrnambool Magistrates Court to reckless conduct endangering life and a number of drug and driving offences.
Magistrate Franz Holzer said a victim impact statement tendered to the court was powerful and persuasive, and the offending was a "significant community safety concern" that needed to be denounced.
But lawyer Morgan Adams said the accident left his client with a life-changing acquired brain injury.
"The fact that he can no longer speak properly means for the rest of his life he will be a walking and talking general deterrence," he said.
In sentencing, the magistrate said he needed to balance the seriousness of the offending with Carmen's injuries and the victim's long-term emotional scars and financial hardship after losing his car.
He said there were no winners and no easy sentencing option.
"Any kind of driving on our roads in which drugs and/or alcohol is involved is likely to end badly," he said.
"It is fortunate it didn't end worse than it did. The photographs (of the crash) I've seen are shocking."
The fact that he can no longer speak properly means for the rest of his life he will be a walking and talking general deterrence.Morgan Adams
The magistrate said if not for Carmen's guilty plea, he would have been jailed for 24 months with a non-parole period of 16 months.
He disqualified the man's licence for 38 months.
South-west police road safety adviser Acting Senior Sergeant Gavin Slade said a range of initiatives including targeting high profile social events would be the focus of south-west police as they attempt to drive down the road toll during summer.
The death of an 85-year-old Melbourne man near Dunkeld earlier this month took the south-west road toll to 11 compared to eight for all of 2018.
A death of a female pedestrian in Barwon Heads on Thursday morning took the state toll to 242, that's 48 people more than for the same time last year.
In the past couple of months south-west police have used rostering as a tool to target alcohol and impaired drivers at higher profile community social events.
At the end of last month the target was the Kennedys Creek Music Festival and the Mortlake Quick Shear competition.
That led to six drug drivers being caught, two drink drivers and a speeder doing 143km/h.
The two female roustabouts in their 20s were caught drink driving in Mortlake with readings of .150 (three times the legal limit) and the other had an exceptionally high .227 - more than four times the legal limit.
Acting Senior Sergeant Slade said that last summer during Operation Roadwise police processed 30 drivers in the region for alcohol or drug impaired driving over the Christmas/New Year period.
"Every driver or person in charge of a motor vehicle should expect to be tested for both alcohol and drugs when intercepted by police or they are involved in a collision," he said.
"Police will target areas of concern using direct rostering and increased hours (TAC funded operations) to address collision hotspots and high incident times.
"Local operations support intelligence-based road policing data in an attempt to minimise and disrupt road trauma in the South West of Victoria."
"State operations will be conducted to provide a consistent approach throughout the state of Victoria in an attempt to reduce road trauma.
"These operations are set at times of increased traffic and higher rates of collisions."
Acting Senior Sergeant Slade said a range of operations would be conducted in the south-west in the coming months, including Operation Summer Safe (December 2019 to end of February 2020), Operation Bushman (December 2019), Operation Blue Moon (November 2019 to March 2020) and Operation Apostle (January to April 2020).
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