Call for slower speeds

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 08:00 02/02/2013

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The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) may look at further safety measures at the Manawatu River Bridge, in Opiki, in the wake of a serious crash.

The Manawatu River bridge, known as Opiki bridge, on State Highway 56 was the scene of a collision on Wednesday afternoon that left three people hospitalised, one with critical injuries.

In 2011, the Opiki community banded together and campaigned to have the speed though the community, and past the school in particular, lowered.

In May 2011, an 80kmh temporary speed restriction was introduced from 150-metres south to 1.7 kilometres north of the intersection between Tane Rd and SH56.

It was lifted last year and a permanent, shortened, 80kmh limit was introduced in June 2012, stretching 150m south and 800m north of Tane Rd.

In addition, a variable speed limit of 60kmh, effective at the start and end of the school day, was introduced at Opiki school as part of an NZTA trial of active signage and variable speed limits for rural schools.

NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the agency was concerned about Wednesday's crash and will be investigating "thoroughly" to determine whether any further safety measures should be implemented.

The speed restricted area was shortened because the high crash area was around the village, not the bridge, he said.

"It's important for the safety of the Opiki community and Opiki school that drivers recognise that these speed limits are appropriate for the community and for the school zone that they are passing through.

"If the permanent 80kmh speed limit were extended too far beyond the township then it may not seem credible to drivers, resulting in lower compliance with the speed limits and reduced safety."

In light of Wednesday's crash, Opiki resident Clive Akers, who has farmland near the bridge, thinks the speed limit across the bridge should be lowered again, particularly if it is found that speed was a factor in the crash.

Mr Akers said the agency didn't know just how many accidents happened on that section of road.

Many of them were minor, and didn't come to the attention of authorities.

Mr Akers said he would await the outcome of the investigation into this week's crash, and depending on the outcome, may ask NZTA to reconsider its decision to increase the speed limit.

CRASH HISTORY

Between 2008 and 2012 there have been 24 crashes in the area, the majority of which were between Tane Rd and the End of Opiki. More than half of those crashes have been due to loss of control. Another cluster of crashes has occurred near Alve Rd.

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- Manawatu Standard

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