Family upset stop signs still undersize

Chanelle Hayes indicates the recommended size a rural road stop sign should be at the Outram...
Chanelle Hayes indicates the recommended size a rural road stop sign should be at the Outram intersection where her niece was killed two years ago. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Undersized stop signs at the site of a double-fatal crash will not be replaced yet, the Dunedin City Council says.

The response has angered the family of 15-year-old Jayde Cummings who, along with 57-year-old Steve Macnee, was killed in the two-car collision at the intersection of Church Rd West and Huntly Rd, in Outram, in September 2019.

A report provided to council just days after the tragedy highlighted stop signs on the approach to the junction were "urban size" (675mm) rather than the NZ Transport Agency recommended 845mm.

Yet as Jayde’s family gathered to mourn the second anniversary of her death last month, the signs remained unchanged.

"It’s time the council ... got the basics right," Jayde’s aunt, Chanelle Hayes, said.

"I have no doubt if it was a councillor’s family member this intersection would immediately be brought up to standard."

A council spokesman, who responded to the Otago Daily Times inquiries after more than two weeks, accepted the sign did not meet guidelines but said there were no immediate plans to change it.

"These signs were compliant with the relevant regulations at the time they were installed, but regulations have since been updated," he said.

"When the standards for existing signs change, the DCC replaces them with new signs when the existing signs reach the end of their useful service life."

That "grandfathering" approach was similarly used with other ageing assets, such as handrails, guardrails and retaining walls, the spokesman said.

The driver of the ute in which Jayde was a passenger - who was 17 at the time - was cleared of dangerous driving causing death following a judge-alone trial.

Factors including the size of the signs and overgrown vegetation meant the teenage driver might not have known he was approaching an intersection, Judge Dominic Flatley said.

The driver admitted careless driving causing death and was granted an absolute discharge.

Since the incident, the council had moved one of the stop signs closer to the road to improve visibility and vegetation had been cut back.

The spokesman said further improvements at the intersection were planned this financial year.

Designs were in the process of being finalised, but might include sign upgrades, additional line markings and line-of-sight improvements, as well as extending the sealed surface leading up to the intersection.

This would mitigate gravel migration, improve visibility of road markings and improve traction and skid resistance, he said.

Victims advocate Ruth Money, who had worked with the Jayde’s family, was outraged by the response.

‘‘The council is trying to hide its culpability using an excuse of ‘grandfathering’, where in reality the signs are, in fact, non-compliant,’’ she said.

‘‘In the case of this intersection the reality is two people have died. That is the tragic and preventable reality for these families.’’

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz 

Comments

When matters have been stated in the legal arena as needing adjustment and actually to be legalised to the requirements, when lives have been lost or people severely injured I think DCC needs first to recognise the reason for signage assets is to prevent this from occurring and that having occurred, DCC to recognise it social obligation to implementing legal findings and savings lives is of far higher priority than prudence in financial asset management which indeed has already fiscally failed as the asset failed it's purpose. Grandstanding does nothing but shows incompetence and failure to understand purpose.

The signs are, in fact, "non-compliant". The signs need to be made compliant now - there is no need for any delay, in fact, the signs do not fulfill purpose. It is not for DCC to decide when and what but to remedy now.

Really DCC? You think it's appropriate to quibble about a few dollars and cents when lives are lossed and families are torn apart? How bout we start a give a little page and pay for it ourselves. Is that really what it's come to? Shame on you. How about standing up and being decent. That would be enough.

 

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