An 18-year-old woman has been charged following a crash that cost a 19-year-old man his life on New Year's Eve.
Nathaniel Merritt-Price, a back seat passenger in the packed car being driven to New Year's celebration by a learner driver, was the last person to die on Victoria's roads in 2015.
Police have charged a Wendoree woman with culpable driving over the incident. She has been bailed to appear at Ballarat Magistrates' Court on January 21.
Grieving friends paid tribute to Mr Merritt-Price on social media, as the Sebastopol man's four friends remained in hospital.
"Heaven gained another soldier tonight," a friend of Mr Merritt-Price, Peter Moore, wrote on Facebook.
"Nathaniel was just always so nice to everyone," he told The Age. "He was the first person to step up and help if anyone needed him."
And as police lament the disproportionate number of young people killed on Victoria's roads last year, others took to the social media platform to warn friends to heed the road safety message.
"Last night goes to show how real a situation can be and what it can do to a family and friends," the friend wrote, "I advise everyone on the roads for the new year to take as much caution as you can while driving because no single moment is ever predictable."
Police said the five young people, aged between 18 and 23, had been travelling to Geelong to celebrate New Year's Eve when their car rolled near Ballarat.
Mr Merritt-Price died at the scene after the car veered off Mt Mercer-Buninyong Road about 8pm.
The other four people in the car were taken to hospital.
Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer said the female driver was an 18-year-old learner.
Police are investigating whether there was a fully-licensed driver in the car.
"Again, we see youth and inexperience and speed involved in that accident," Assistant Commissioner Fryer said.
"The driver of the vehicle was an 18-year-old learner driver. The young man who passed away was 19 years old and everyone in the vehicle was aged between 18 and 23.
"There were five in the vehicle and they were headed back to Geelong for the New Year's Eve celebrations.
"We know that there was speed involved, there's inexperience involved. The vehicle had overtaken another vehicle and has overcorrected when coming back onto the right side of the road."
The driver, from the same suburb, was flown to The Alfred hospital with serious injuries.
Her front-seat passenger, a 21-year-old woman from the Ballarat suburb of Redan, was also seriously injured and was airlifted to the same hospital. Both of them were reported as stable on Friday night.
Two other back-seat passsengers, a 23-year-old Sebastopol man and an 18-year-old woman from Scarsdale near Ballarat, were taken by road ambulance to Ballarat Base Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Teen drivers and passengers dominate rise in road toll
The man's death brought 2015's road toll up to 257, eight more than in 2014.
It is the second consecutive year the road toll has risen, although this year's toll falls short of the 287 deaths recorded in 2011.
The year's spike in road deaths was dominated by inexperienced drivers and their young passengers.
VicRoads chief executive John Merritt said that for vulnerable young people, a mistake on the road could be diabolical.
"In 2015, 11 more drivers lost their lives [than in 2014]," he said.
He said 18 drivers aged between 18 and 20 died last year, compared with eight in 2014.
And 11 passengers aged 16 or 17 died on the roads last year, seven more than in 2014. In many of these cases, the driver was aged between 18 and 20.
Thursday's crash was the second over the New Year's period to involve young people.
On Tuesday night, two teenagers on their way to Eildon for New Year's Eve died when their car ran off the Princes Freeway at Altona.
Driver Ethan Watson-Day, 18, from Yarraville, had obtained his licence about a week earlier, police said.
His passenger, Jarrod Beven, 16, from Altona North, had been on the phone trying to get directions from mates
More than 6000 people were hospitalised from road crashes in Victoria last year, Transport Accident Commission data shows.
The commission's annual report shows that the number of claims it accepted from victims of road trauma rose to 47,204. It paid out a record $1.13 billion.
Road crashes cost the state an estimated $6 billion a year.
Anyone who may have witnessed the Mt Mercer crash is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
With Adam Carey