Riders heading to the Alpine National Park over the coming months will need to look out for specialist police joining them on the dirt tracks.
The Victoria Police solo unit – involving officers in full protective gear on motorbikes – had already charged 900 people breaking the law in state forests across the state over the past nine months, and issued over 1200 infringement and defect notices for unlicensed riding and unroadworthy bikes.
Now Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer has warned they will be stepping up their presence in an effort to stop a rising amount of crashes in the bush.
“What we often see in our crashes is dangerous and unsafe riding practices, with riders unregistered or unlicensed,” he said.
“There are some who get out here into the state forest and think it’s a free-for all.
“They’ll get out there with their 35-inch muddies (large tyres) and their four-wheel drives and some dirt bike riders who aren’t registered.”
Assistant Commissioner Fryer is a keen off-road rider himself and broke his wrist in a crash in February while off-duty.
He was luckily wearing protective clothing and encouraged others to do more than just put on the mandatory helmet.
“It’s a great sport, but if you come off and you haven’t got the right gear on, you’re going to be a in a world of pain,” he said. “Some riders don’t, but most are pretty good.
“If we see riders who are not wearing the right gear, we’ll pull them over and just have that chat.”
The warning comes as police were concerned about a 25 per cent rise in crashes in rural areas during 2017.
Four of the 60 rural crashes – more than half of Victoria’s overall road toll – were in Wangaratta and one was in Towong Shire.
A 53-year-old was hit by a truck while walking her dog on Ryley Street in January, and in the space of a week in April a 69-year-old man died from a crash on Snow Road, a 19-year-old died in a late-night crash on Federation Way and a 21-year-old hit a tree at Tallandoon.
"If you are a licence-holder in Victoria, statistically, you have four times more likelihood of dying on a country road, than you do on a metro road," Assistant Commissioner Fryer said.
“These are roads that are known to the local community and still we're seeing significant trauma on them."