Blue-light sentinels warn of ice hazard

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014
scott graham
JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN/ Fairfax NZ
TRIAL RUN: Scott Graham, of the Central Otago District Council, on a section of Earnscleugh Rd in Alexandra where trial road markers will be installed warning motorists of ice.

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A new warning system to alert drivers to ice on the roads is being tested in Central Otago.

About 100 PATeye road markers, designed by Christchurch firm Solar Bright, are being installed on five Central Otago roads this week, and with winter temperatures dropping to minus 5 degrees Celsius the devices should be well-tested.

NZ Transport Agency Otago Southland state highways manager Ian Duncan said the month-long trial had the potential to keep drivers safe by alerting them to road conditions where ice was likely to form.

The markers were fixed to the centre line and displayed a flashing LED blue light when ground temperature dropped to a certain level, warning motorists of a potential ice hazard, Duncan said.

"The trial is to see what effect the markers have on the behaviour of drivers, and whether they slow down, because the markers make them more aware of the possibility of ice on the road. Motorists will also be surveyed to see what they think of these road markers."

Figures provided to The Southland Times show there were 19 serious crashes, and two fatal crashes, in Southland between 2009 and 2013 in which ice may have been a contributing factor. In Otago, there were 27 serious crashes and no fatalities for the same period.

The trial - a joint initiative between the Central Otago District Council, NZ Transport Agency, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Dunedin City Council - could be rolled out around the country, depending on results, he said.

Central Otago District Council roading engineer Scott Graham said the trial sites were chosen due to their known frost history and the council's ability to easily monitor the effect.

"It will be fantastic if they work."

TRIAL LOCATIONS

Earnscleugh Rd (Aronui Road Intersection area) Earnscleugh Rd (Clyde Bridge approach) Springvale Rd / Dunstan Road (Intersection area) Little Valley Rd (From Graveyard Gully to the road/rail bridge) Bannockburn Rd (Cromwell side of Pearson Road to the Bannockburn Bridge) 

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