Less than two weeks after six people died in a horror crash on a Chatsworth Rd intersection, two drivers, aged 19 and 23, have been clocked travelling at 125kmh and 146kmh on the same section of road.
HAMILTON Highway Patrol Sergeant, Scott Williams, is “pissed off”.
Each year nearly 400,000 people under 25 die on the world’s roads – on average more than 1000 a day – and here in the south-west, young drivers seem determined to make that ‘dis’honour board.
Sergeant Williams was the first to arrive on scene near Penshurst on November 12, where twin sisters Olivia and Caroline Wright, their friends Rebecca McKenzie, Sean Doran and Tim Cooper and truck driver Steven Elford, were all killed.
After spending 16 hours on site viewing the carnage there, Sgt Williams was absolutely gobsmacked – and furious – on Sunday night, when police picked up two speeding drivers on the same stretch of road.
“I’m sick and tired of going to these things and I’m sick and tired of going to the parents to tell them their kids are dead,” Sgt Williams said on Monday.
“It’s something these kids could never do and they don’t think about that; they’re that bloody stupid, they have no idea what they’re causing.
“These ones on Sunday night, they were both Hamilton residents aged 19 and 23, they were doing 125km/h and 146km/h and both were caught speeding within one, yes one kilometre, of the fatal collision site.
“Where they got pinged, they’d actually passed (the Chatsworth-Blackwood Rd intersection) at those type of speeds.
“I spent close to 16 hours at that accident scene and you just tear your hair out trying to figure out how to make them listen.”
Local police were further dumbfounded, when they were called to an accident just after 7am on Monday, where a young male driver had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car – the second in a matter of months.
Sergeant Paul Stanhope said two P-plate drivers, both travelling to trade school and coming from the Horsham area early in the morning had been involved in accidents.
“They’ve both fallen asleep at the wheel and collided with things and the first one was just around the corner from where the Penshurst fatality was,” he said.
“He travelled some distance on the right hand side of the road, travelled about 35 metres on the wrong side of the road, then crossed back to the left and went off the road into a cluster of shrubs.
“Among those shrubs was a big tree which, fortunately, he missed.”
He said the driver in Monday morning’s incident was also very lucky, after his car left the road, slamming into an embankment and landing in a drain, only narrowly missing a guard rail.
“We want people to go out at the weekend and have a good time, but we also want them to plan on getting back to work on Monday morning,” Sgt Stanhope said.
“Having late nights every night and drinking to excess, it’s just asking for a (fatigue-related) crash.”
Sgt Williams said many personnel involved in the aftermath of the November 12 fatality were still struggling with what they had had to deal with.
“There’s a couple of members that are really struggling after that Penshurst crash, police, SES, CFA, even hospital staff that aren’t coping too well,” he said.
“The rules now for the coroner are that if there’s more than two losses of life in a crash, you can’t do facial recognition, you’ve got to do DNA, dental, fingerprints.
“The guys from Warrnambool had to go and do the death messages for the Penshurst crash.
“Can you imagine going up to someone’s house and saying ‘sorry, you’ve just lost your son and by the way, I need a mouth swab’?
“I’ve been there, I’ve delivered the death messages, you have no idea how people react; people faint, collapse, I’ve even had punches thrown at me.”
He said statistically and until just recently, this policing area had one of the most impressive driving records in the state.
“I’m really pissed off,” he said.
“Our area was going really well statistics-wise until recently, because people were doing the right thing.
“Now we’ve lost five young people in a matter of minutes and we’ve got idiots like these two this morning driving at stupid speeds.”
‘Can you imagine going up to someone’s house and saying ‘sorry, you’ve just lost your son and by the way, I need a mouth swab’?’ – Sergeant Scott Williams.
Sgt Williams said that like Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner, Kieran Walshe, he was “out of ideas” for how to make young drivers behave more responsibly on the roads.
“I’ve got no idea what the answer is,” he said.
“I spoke to Mr Walshe earlier this week, there was a group of five of us with 100-plus years of policing experience.
“We know that education is the key but we’re just at a loss as to how to get them to listen and take some responsibility for what they do on the road.
“The problem is that younger drivers think they’re six-foot-tall and bullet proof.
“But you get 1000 kids in a room together, a quarter of them could easily be dead by the end of next year; the statistics show 25 per cent of them are likely to die on the road by the end of next year.”