View bridge safety signage insufficient

A truck crushed a car after crashing into Oamaru’s Humber St bridge in November 2020. PHOTO:...
A truck crushed a car after crashing into Oamaru’s Humber St bridge in November 2020. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
A truck driver who still feels guilty after a crash more than three years ago says the Waitaki District Council needs to do more to prevent history from repeating.

Many drivers have crashed into the bridge between Humber and Tyne Sts over the years, including Jonathan Crocker, who in November 2020 crashed a rental truck while heading north, which rolled on to a car and crushed the driver.

In 2020, the council installed electronic signs to warn over-height drivers, but they are infamous for running throughout the day, warning all traffic to stop.

Last week it was discovered a council employee had reset the signs 16 times within the span of three weeks this year.

Mr Crocker has criticised the malfunctioning signage and blamed the council for not doing more to stop his and other crashes.

But the council says the new signage is working, the height limit is "clearly stated" and drivers have a responsibility to be aware.

When he crashed, Mr Crocker received only minor injuries — he broke the side window with his head — but the driver of the car was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital with a broken nose and several abrasions.

He said the guilt had taken a toll on him mentally.

He believed he never should have been anywhere near the area and the council failed to adequately warn him of the danger.

"I hurt that guy.

"What the hell was I doing in a tourist area with a truck?"

The warning signs should have been placed earlier on the approach to the bridge to deter people before they even came close, he said.

"There should at least be a sign telling trucks not to turn left on to Humber St, as many would not notice the warnings right before the bridge.

"When you have turned left, you are committed."

The money spent on the electronic signs could have been spent on a better solution, such as restricting trucks without business from the area and installing hanging boards that trucks would slap before they crashed, he said.

"They are letting people crash there ... It is clear that the signs don’t work."

The council has rejected allegations the electronic signs are not effective.

A council spokesman said there had only been one crash at the site since the signs were installed, as well as an incident where a bus made contact with the bridge.

The underpass met the legal signage requirements and the electronic signs were an additional safety measure to that.

The council had considered hanging boards, but to be effective at the bridge they would have to be installed in Humber, Itchen and Tyne Sts.

"The installation of hanging boards on these streets would cause issues for other large vehicles that utilise the greater Victorian precinct area without height limitations.

"We must prioritise solutions that are practical, effective and compatible with the existing infrastructure and traffic flow."

The idea of restricting vehicle access was being considered as part of a broader strategy for parking, heavy traffic, the town centre and the harbour development.

"It’s essential to acknowledge the practical implications of such measures on local businesses."

The council lowered the warning height on the bridge from 3.5m to 3m following Mr Crocker’s crash and were working with KiwiRail to prevent such accidents.

"Drivers are responsible for being aware of their vehicle heights and must note and obey all signage — including the height limit clearly stated on the bridge."