Wheels start moving on NZTA's $600m rumble for rural road safety
Here's a sobering statistic: Eight out of every 10 fatal and serious motor vehicle crashes on New Zealand's state highways occur when the vehicles concerned are in rural areas.
Not only that, but close to 90 per cent of those crashes are either head-on impacts or the driver running off the road.
Of course it has to be said that most of New Zealand's 11,000 kilometres of state highways are out in the countryside - in fact of that total, there's only about 200 kilometres of motorway.
Almost our entire state highway network is two-lane single carriageway, which means vehicles travelling in opposite directions pass within centimetres of each other, with only a strip of paint separating the two.
When a motorist is driving through the countryside in the dark, and it is raining, there can be little room for human error.
But there are some actions that can ease the way for our motorists. Improved visibility, side and median barriers, rumble strips, wider centre-lines, better road markings and improved signage are all means of reducing the risk of crashes.
That's what is behind a $600 million nationwide road safety programme that was announced by the Government in the middle of this year.
The Safer Roads and Roadsides Programme will see safety improvements made to more than 90 high-risk sites on rural state highways in 14 regions throughout New Zealand.
It focuses on nearly all high-risk roads where there have been five or more fatalities in the last five years.
The Government forecasts the programme will result in 900 fewer deaths and serious injuries over the next 10 years.
The first of these projects has been completed. It involves SH37, which is a short 7.3km stretch of road from Waitomo to the intersection with SH3.
Changes to the highway include construction of side barriers and improved signage and road markings to alert drivers to upcoming corners.
Sections of the highway have also been widened so that drivers who do lose control on corners have more time to recover, and a new footpath linking key tourist spots has been built to improve safety for pedestrians.
The cost of the project was $1.5 million.
Here's a selection of some other Safer Roads and Roadsides Programme projects that have either started or are about to start:
SH11 north of Whangarei: shoulders being widened and side barrier installed ($1.7m).
SH12 Dargaville to Tokatoka: rumble strips being applied to road edges and centre-lines ($200,000).
SH1 Hampton Downs to SH2 Bombay: New median and side barriers installed, rumble strips applied ($8.6m).
SH34 from SH30 to Kawerau: Side barriers installed in high risk areas, and rumble strips applied ($625,000).
SH2 Wairoa to Bay View: Rumble strips, improved signage, side barriers at high-risk locations ($3.1m).
SH57 and SH1 to Shannon: Side barriers, shoulder widening, median treatment ($10.6m).
SH7 Waipara to Waikari: Rumble strips, improved signage, side barriers at high-risk locations ($1.7m).
SH1 Dunedin to Fairfield: Rumble strips, improved signage, side barriers and high-risk locations ($3.4m).