Drink-drivers were responsible for more than half of the region's fatal crashes in what was a heart-breaking 2022 for the south-west, a police sergeant says.
Sergeant Danny Brown said there were multiple fatalities on regional roads last year which police suspected were a result of impaired driving.
"2022 proved heart-breaking for families around the division, in particular the Corangamite area," he said.
Five people died between June and November in four separate collisions at Cobden, Dixie, Berrybank and Dartmoor.
The victims were aged between 16 and 33. Police suspect alcohol, as well as speed, were the contributing factors to all four collisions.
Earlier in the year there were fatal crashes involving two male drivers, a cyclist and a motorcyclist.
Sergeant Brown said south-west police were stepping up their efforts to avoid a "repeat of last year's horror".
"As police we take responsibility for the welfare of our road users and we feel a sense of failure when we hear of or attend to a serious injury collision that could have easily been avoided," he said.
"So many people suffer when someone dies or is seriously injured on our roads."
The road deaths came as south-west police detected drivers with a series of potentially life-threatening blood alcohol readings in 2022.
In March, a 51-year-old Cobden man blew .192. It was his third extreme reading in 12 months after blowing .283 and .237 in 2021.
Then in June a 57-year-old woman blew more than three times the limit in the Hamilton central business district while a 25-year-old disqualified driver was found severely intoxicated and asleep behind the wheel.
Road Safety Promotion Australia (RoSPA) board member Donald Gibb said it was "awfully frustrating" to hear of young lives being lost at the hands of impaired drivers.
"It's wasteful, shocking, irresponsible and terrible," he said. "And I think what people forget about is the mess that they leave behind with relatives, family and other connections."
Born in Port Fairy, Mr Gibb is a long-time road safety advocate instrumental in getting the .05 and seatbelt laws in Victoria in the 1970s.
He said Victoria used to be the "road safety state" but a shocking few years had seen it fall behind its neighbours.
"We have to get road safety back as a priority because we can't afford to lose young people, particularly in rural areas," Mr Gibb said.
He said the state government needed to invest in free safe driving education for young people.
"We're performing badly and have done so for a number of years," Mr Gibb said.
"The best state at the moment is NSW, they've got free driving education programs.
"We can't just rely on technology and prosecution."
Mr Gibb, who has travelled extensively during his advocacy work, said Victoria should look to the UK and Norway, which he said had the best road performance in the world.
"They have really good, young driver education programs and have done so for a long time," he said.
"They're engaged with the education departments and that is missing here."
Mr Gibb said it was vital to target young people before they got their learner permits and educate them before it's too late.
RoSPA is a national regional community-based not-for-profit road safety awareness and education organisation geared towards road safety.
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