Safety work for southern roads

Julie Anne Genter
Julie Anne Genter
Eighteen roads in Otago and Southland deemed dangerous are to get a share of $22.5 million  this summer to upgrade and improve their safety.

The cash for safety improvements prompted police yesterday to warn motorists that more people had been killed on New Zealand roads so far this year than in any year since 2010. Many others had lifelong injuries.

Safety improvements are to include rumble strips, signs and safety barriers on rural roads, targeted speed limit changes and an activated warning sign at one high-risk rural intersection.

New Zealand’s road  fatalities for the 12 months to last Friday, including cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and cyclists, was 380, compared with 321 for the same period last year, while this month’s 18 deaths so far are almost double last December’s 10.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter committed to further boosting funding for road safety improvements next year when the Government revised the overall transport budget.

Ms Genter  announced yesterday the NZ Transport Agency would be spending an extra $22.5 million on low-cost safety improvements on rural state highways across the country, including work on 18  stretches of  road in the South.

"The number of people losing their lives on our roads has increased every year for the past five years.

"When things are this bad, government has a responsibility to act," she said in a statement.

The police spokesman said yesterday police were focused on driver behaviour and safety, with attention being given to four main contributors to road trauma: motorists going too fast for conditions; unrestrained occupants; impairments such as fatigue, drugs or alcohol; and distractions such as cellphone use while driving.

"Police cannot do this alone. We need everyone’s help to keep our roads safe," the spokesman said.

Ms Genter said many deaths and injuries could be avoided by making some relatively simple changes, such as rumble strips, which could reduce all crashes by about 25% and fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42%.

The NZTA would also investigate installing activated warning signs at one high-risk rural intersection in Otago. These had been successfully used at 13 sites around the country to make dangerous intersections safer.

"These are electronic signs that automatically reduce the speed limit on the main road if a vehicle turns into or out of a side road," Ms Genter said.

The Otago intersection is that of State Highway 8 and State Highway 8B, just out of Cromwell, on the main route to Queenstown and Christchurch.

The only other South Island intersection  being considered for the electronic sign is where State Highways 1 and 79 meet at Winchester, 20km north of Timaru.

The  activated warning signs, proposed for high-risk rural intersections in Northland, Waikato, Horowhenua, Canterbury and Central Otago,  slow speed limits from 100kmh to 60kmh or 70kmh if a vehicle is turning into or out of a side road.

Ms Genter had written to  the NZTA and all local councils to make it clear that setting more appropriate speed limits on high-risk stretches of road would be a government  priority.

The NZTA would begin engaging with communities on the proposed safety improvements before Christmas and work was scheduled to start in February.

Mr Genter said the Government would hold a road safety summit early next year in order to hear directly from councils about the barriers to, and opportunities for, improving road safety.

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