A Victorian man and woman are both dead after two separate crashes on the Murraylands’ highways over the Christmas-new year period.
A car was torn in half after colliding with a tree on the side of the Mallee Highway at Elwomple, about five kilometres from the Dukes Highway turn-off, around 5.30am on December 22.
The driver of the car, a 38-year-old man from Victoria, sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, but died that night.
The second crash occurred five days later.
Just before 12.30pm on December 27, two cars collided on the Dukes Highway about two kilometres north of Coonalpyn.
A woman who was a passenger in one of the cars died at the scene.
Three others were taken to hospital, including an elderly man in a critical condition.
Theirs were the sixth and seventh deaths on roads in the Murray Mallee region in 2017.
However, fewer lives were lost in the region than in recent years, and the number of serious injuries – 38 – was far lower than usual, mirroring a reduction in regional crashes across South Australia.
The state’s annual road toll finished at 101, and the serious injury toll at 573.
That number could easily be reduced if more drivers took the basic precaution of wearing a seatbelt, Road Safety Minister Chris Picton said.
Forty-two per cent of drivers and passengers killed on the road did not buckle up.
“We continue to see people disregard basic safety advice,” Mr Picton said.
“There were many lives that could have been saved in the last year if people had just worn seatbelts.”
He also criticised irresponsible drivers and riders, saying every road death was preventable.
“With the state’s annual road toll … resetting to zero (on January 1), all South Australians have the opportunity to make a new start, and a commitment that their driving behaviour will reduce the state’s road trauma,” he said.
“The responsibility for safe driving starts with every motorist.
“Please obey the speed limits, don’t drink or take drugs and drive, wear a seatbelt and ensure you are not distracted when driving – these small steps save lives every day.
“We should not accept that the potential for deaths on the road is an inevitable outcome of driving.”