Crashes, complaint calls skyrocket

Police were called to 688 vehicle collisions in 2017 across the Otago Lakes Central police area,...
Police were called to 688 vehicle collisions in 2017 across the Otago Lakes Central police area, which includes Queenstown. Photo: ODT
Crashes and complaints on Otago Lakes roads are both up a whopping 150 percent over the last five years.

Police were called to 688 vehicle collisions in 2017 across the Otago Lakes Central police area, which includes Queenstown.

That figure’s been rising steadily since 2013, when there were some 276 collisions.

The number of traffic calls police receive has also skyrocketed – from 2091 in 2013 to 5275 last year.

Top area road cop Senior Sergeant Glenn Wilkinson says: “It’s more than doubled though, so quite a rise – but I don’t necessarily think it means driver skills are worse.

“There has been a large increase in traffic on our roads over the last couple of years.”

Annual average daily traffic just north of Frankton’s BP junction jumped from 15,969 in 2012 to 23,468 in 2016, according to the most up-to-date NZ Transport Agency stats.

About half of all calls Queenstown police receive are about traffic matters.

Calls include those to the 111 emergency line, general calls redirected through police stations, and those to the *555 line.

That’s a way to dob in bad drivers in real time, with police attending the most dangerous incidents.

No statistics are available for how many of the calls relate to tourist drivers.

A conversation and education at the side of the road are enough to deal with some of the complaint calls, Wilkinson says.

Collisions can include “everything from a minor bump in a car park someone wants to report for insurance purposes right through to a fatal crash”, he says.

“Our advice is, as always, watch your speed, watch your stopping distances, and if everyone keeps to their side of the road you can’t have a head-on collision.”

Officers were also called to 590 hazards in 2017, such as fallen trees. The number of call-outs to hazards has remained relatively static since 2013, when there were 592.

The figures were released to Mountain Scene under the Official Information Act.

They also reveal road cops issued slightly fewer speeding tickets in 2017 compared to previous years – some 6545 compared to about 7000 a year from 2013-15. In 2016, they issued 6783.

Caroline Perry, Brake’s NZ director says: “Whilst some of that [collision] increase can be attributed to more vehicles on the road and distance travelled, it does not account for all of it, with casualties increasing at a higher rate.”

She’s pleased the public are phoning the cops but says cops need enough funding and resources to appropriately.

Otago Lakes Central police area covers Queenstown Lakes district, Cromwell, Alexandra, Roxburgh, Omakau and Ranfurly.

To manage the increase in traffic volume locally, NZTA has built a new Kawarau Falls bridge, Queenstown’s council has built the new Hawthorne Drive link road, and both supported Otago Regional Council’s $2 bus move.

NZTA’s also responsible for a number of road safety improvements, from rumble strips and signs, to median dividers on SH6 through the Kawarau Gorge.

But Perry says NZ has been slow to implement such proven measures.


So statistically the number of crashes have more than doubled and calls to the police to complain about driving have more than doubled, but the traffic volume at the BP roundabout has only increased by 47% - and yet the police don't believe the standard of driving on our local roads has deteriorated??
My guess is the number of *555 calls would be greater, if there was better cellphone coverage in the gorge, crown range, devils staircase and the GY road.
A few years ago, it used to be occasional observation of poor driving - now it is every single long journey on any given road into and out of Queenstown. Most of the observed poor driving is by drivers in rental cars and camper vans - presumably the majority of whom are tourists.
Surely the tourist driver statistics are available as the licence plate of the offending driver is given to the police when you call *555.