Motorists urged to put brakes on speed

November 08, 2017

If you see emergency or enforcement vehicles with flashing red, blue or magenta lights — please slow down.

That is the message emergency services personnel are pleading with the community to heed.

In July this year, the Victorian Government announced that road users would need to slow down to 40km/h when driving past stationary or slow-moving vehicles, including police, ambulance, fire services, State Emergency Service and VicRoads vehicles.

Victoria Police’s David Gillespie brought the agencies together at Driver Education Centre of Australia (DECA) in Shepparton last week in an effort to raise awareness about the law.

‘‘It is designed to increase the safety of emergency services workers performing their duty,’’ Act Sen Sgt Gillespie said.

‘‘We’re relying on the public to keep us safe.’’

Act Sen Sgt Gillespie said the law had created some confusion and risk because some drivers were abiding by the 40km/h limit, while others completely ignored it.

‘‘There have been incidents of late whereby one car in the right-hand lane has slowed down — doing the right thing — and another car driving in the left lane has continued at 110km/h,’’ he said.

‘‘Making it highly dangerous for everyone.’’

The law was introduced for the safety of all and Act Sen Sgt Gillespie said research had shown it increased survival rate by up to 95 per cent.

‘‘Yes you’re liable to receive a penalty notice (if people do not abide by the law), but it’s not about that,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s the fact that we’re someone’s family member and we want to have a safe working environment ... we could be changing a tyre.

‘‘People need to look further ahead on the roads and have more situational awareness.’’

CFA’s District 22 operation manager Tony Owen said the new law offered a safer working environment for all paid and volunteer staff.

‘‘We’re at emergency scenes with smoke, so it’s an even more dangerous place ... we’ve had a number of near-misses and are asking people to heed the law,’’ Mr Owen said.

‘‘The worst-case scenario is the death of an emergency service worker, which is not acceptable.

‘‘We are putting our lives at risk for the community — in a volunteer capacity in some situations — we deserve the same respect.’’

Ambulance Victoria’s acting Western Hume group manager Bec Hance said paramedics took every measure to ensure a citizen’s livelihood, so it was only fair that this respect was mirrored.

‘‘(People travelling in excess of the speed limit) is an observation we see quite frequently,’’ Ms Hance said.

‘‘The law is about keeping us safe ... if you see our lights, the instant reaction should be to slow down.’’

Shepparton Search and Rescue president Michael D’Elia said people not slowing down and not obeying the law was a concern.

‘‘It only takes one incident, one person who doesn’t slow down and if someone hits us, we can be in serious trouble,’’ Mr D’Elia said.

‘‘We constantly talk to each other about being mindful in traffic and want to protect ourselves, but there is an expectation that the community keeps an eye out for us as well.’’

Act Sen Sgt Gillespie said the rule applied to the drivers despite any other road rule.

‘‘This rule does not apply on a road with a median strip, where the vehicle is on the other side of the median strip,’’ he said.

The important message: If you see flashing lights — please slow down.

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