Schoolgirl nearly hit by car at junction

A Mosgiel mother has described the "sickening" moment her daughter was a hair’s breadth from being struck at a notorious intersection in the township.

It comes amid calls for something to be done about the intersection of Hagart-Alexander Dr and Gordon Rds after a crash there last week.

A Mosgiel mother, who asked not to be named, said on May 18 her daughter was almost mowed down by a vehicle after the traffic lights malfunctioned and the driver’s view was obscured by heavy traffic.

She said it was "sickening" to witness her primary school-aged daughter almost being hit by a car.

Her daughter was crossing Haggart-Alexander Dr while a green signal for pedestrians was on, when a driver made a fast right-hand turn to make the gap in traffic.

The driver’s red arrow had stopped flashing before the green signal for pedestrians had turned red and the driver’s view was obscured by vehicle congestion on the road.

"The vehicle went right into her pathway while it was travelling really fast — my daughter was very, very lucky it didn’t take her out.

"There is way too many children and way too many vehicles all looking to make it through the intersection."

The mother said the intersection was already "quite poorly laid out", and the recent traffic diversion through Mosgiel while work was carried out on State Highway1 had exacerbated the issue.

The layout meant visibility was compromised at the main crossing point where children gathered, and cars turning could not see the children gathered behind vehicles stopped in the pedestrian crossing zone.

"There are a lot of children walking to school between 8am and 9am, this obviously coincides with peak traffic times."

Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board chairman Andrew Simms said solving the bigger transport issues facing Mosgiel was a "can that should no longer be kicked down the road".

The inadequacy of the roading network in Mosgiel had been highlighted as a priority in 2013 as part of the Integrated Transport Strategy for Dunedin by the Dunedin City Council.

All other priorities had been addressed, except for Mosgiel, Mr Simms said.

"Since 2013, the population of Mosgiel has grown by 30% and heavy transport movements on Gordon Rd had increased by over 300%.

"What the Mosgiel community needs is decisive action. We do not need another study, more hand-wringing and further excuses — we need funding and diggers."

An NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi spokeswoman said the intersection had a complicated layout that demanded drivers’ attention at all times and their patience.

"We are actively managing the intersection of Gladstone Rd and SH87 to minimise journey times."

NZTA was planning work to improve safety outcomes for drivers going in an out of Mosgiel.

"The intersection optimisation from an NZTA perspective would meet economic growth and productivity, as well as safety improvement aims.

"Given there are local roads intersecting and a KiwiRail track crossing this piece of highway, any future work would involve NZTA, DCC and KiwiRail."

The spokeswoman said funding would need to be confirmed in September.

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi’s team lead safety engineers Roy Johnston later clarified that the signal was not malfunctioning at the time of the near miss, but had been deliberately set in such a formation. Since the near miss it the settings had been changed to favour pedestrians.

"At the time of the incident at this intersection, the timing of the red arrow, which requires drivers to stop and not turn, overlapped with the green pedestrian crossing signal as part of our settings. This setting is used to manage the capacity of an intersection with high traffic volumes and is common across the country. Normally, this approach to the pedestrian crossing phase allows people to progress into an intersection where they can be seen by drivers before the driver moves forward and begins their turn, safely."

He said it was interesting to note the parent indicated that the driver of the vehicle appeared to be going too fast and potentially could not see past opposing traffic into the pedestrian crossing area.

"Any driver turning towards a pedestrian crossing area has to stop for pedestrians on the road regardless of what the crossing signals are advising pedestrians. Some people do walk much slower than others and the onus is on the driver to take care and ensure pedestrians and children on scooters are safe."

Once the incident was reported to Dunedin City Council, it was passed onto the NZTA Wellington Transport Operations Centre (WTOC), on 18 May.

"The signal pedestrian crossing phase was altered to increase the safety factor for pedestrians by providing them with full protection i.e. no vehicles are allowed to turn while the pedestrian crossing is operating."  

The change made was not about correcting a “malfunction” but changing the settings to favour pedestrians given the reported near-miss, he said.

Given the changes the intersection is being monitored by WTOC signals people to ensure the reduced time for drivers turning does not create an unintended consequences.

"Everyone has to play their part to keep pedestrians, cyclists and children safe."