Dunedin drivers the worst in NZ

BUMPER RANKING: Dunedin's road safety co-ordinator Debra Palmer in downtown Dunedin where driver behaviour is the worst in the country.
WILMA MCCORKINDALE/Fairfax NZ
BUMPER RANKING: Dunedin's road safety co-ordinator Debra Palmer in downtown Dunedin where driver behaviour is the worst in the country.

They shoot red lights, run stop signs, don't give way, follow too closely and won't let others merge – the stats and the experts agree, Dunedin drivers are the worst in New Zealand.

NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) figures show that per capita Dunedin drivers are the worst of any major centre in the country.

With a population of 120,246, the city had 354 fatal and injury crashes in the past year.

The statistics have been released in NZTA's Trends report to June 30, 2013.

Hamilton, population 141,615, clocked up 259 fatal and injury crashes; Wellington 190,956, had 319; Christchurch 341,469, ticked up 839, and Auckland 1,433,000, totalled 2792.

Dunedin City Council road safety co-ordinator Debra Palmer is hoping for a U-turn in the figures, saying driver behaviour in the city certainly needs some work.

"We're always in such a hurry in Dunedin. Yet Dunedin doesn't have a lot of traffic and it doesn't take long to get anywhere. It only takes 10 minutes to get across the CBD but we seem to get angry there are other cars on the road."

Palmer said a breakdown of the figures exposed the city's intersection crash stats, the highest in the country, as the most worrying.

"Running red lights is huge here. Dunedin drivers use the amber light as if it were green."

Negotiating city intersections had become so dangerous that when driving through the city Palmer no longer took off from an intersection when a red light turned green. Too many drivers ran red lights, she said.

"The roads should never be so dangerous they kill people. So it's a big issue we're going to have to work on."

Palmer said several other bad driving behaviours added to the high intersection crash rate.

"It's poor observation, not giving way when turning, people not slowing down, waiting and looking before they turn at an intersection."

One of the city's longest-serving driving instructors, Jim Pine, said it was no revelation Dunedin had been shown to have the worst drivers.

"I'd probably go along with that. It doesn't surprise me at all.

"They shoot through red lights, don't stop at stop signs, they speed and follow too closely. On wet days there is always glass on the road somewhere where someone's rammed up the back of someone else."

Pine said Dunedin drivers were particularly badly behaved when changing lanes.

"They see you indicate and think 'bugger you, mate' and won't let you in.

"I put it down to because we haven't got the same amount of traffic as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

"If you did that in any of those cities ...

"That's the main thing about Dunedin drivers. We live in our own little world.

"We've got one piddly wee motorway and drivers insist on sitting in the right-hand lane. They tend to sit there travelling at 80. That's against the road code which states 'stay in the left hand lane unless passing'."

NZTA data shows 287 Dunedin crashes occurred on urban roads, while 62 occurred on the open road.

"Loss of control, crossing or turning and pedestrian crashes, accounted for nearly 70 per cent of all fatal and serious injury crashes in Dunedin in the past five years," an NZTA spokesman said.

"Around 70 per cent of these were on local roads, that is, those with speed limits of 70kmh or less."

Palmer said she was working with police, ACC, the Otago Regional Council, and NZTA on a road safety action plan for the city.

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