Aim to cut roadwork hazards

Sergeant Mike Ungerer, of Invercargill, takes speed readings at a roadworks site in Dacre, near...
Sergeant Mike Ungerer, of Invercargill, takes speed readings at a roadworks site in Dacre, near Invercargill. PHOTO: TONI MCDONALD
Workers have suffered broken ribs and damaged eye sockets from flying stones as vehicles go past roadworks, prompting a campaign in the South for drivers to be more careful.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and police say road workers deal with countless hazards while repairing the nation’s roads.

But being injured because of bad driver behaviour should not be one of them, Waka Kotahi South Island journey manager Nicole Felts said.

Vehicles travelling too fast through a roadworks site frequently flicked up stones which could injure workers — the faster the vehicle was going, the faster the stones were flung, she said.

Broken ribs and damaged eye sockets were only some of the injuries workers had received from flying stones.

Work sites were a critical risk area. Each year, 10 people lost their lives and 30 people were seriously injured at roadworks sites around the country, she said.

"These people are our sons, daughters, husbands and friends who deserve to be able to go home at night."

Waka Kotahi was launching a South Island-wide roadworks driver awareness campaign while police would be focused on educating and changing driver behaviour through works sites this season.

"We’re trying to humanise our crews, so people don’t see them as large orange road cones," Ms Felts said.

The roadworks were not there to inconvenience people, but to make the road safer for people to use, she said.

Sergeant Mike Ungerer, of Invercargill, said people needed to remember 30kmh was a mandatory speed limit which needed to be strictly adhered to.

The consequences were the same as any other speeding or driving infringement notice, including demerit points and fines up to $630, Sgt Ungerer said.

South Roads traffic management divisional manager Emma Hill said bad driving practice was just one aspect staff had to deal with.

"The speed and driving behaviour is one thing, but the aggression and intimidation are something else.

"We’ve had some of our staff abused - particularly when there’s been a road closure for an accident and people are frustrated.

The frustration was understandable, but the aggression was not.

Staff had a double responsibility in looking after motorists as well as their team.

Miss Felts said the way a vehicle travelled through a work site affected the road’s quality or repair as well as the vehicle.

"If you drive too fast, it rips up the road surface, but too slow and the road will stick to the car."

Damaging the surface only prolonged the time crews were on site, or meant they would need to return sooner, she said.

- By Toni McDonald