Motorcycle crashes on increase
Taranaki's Forgotten World Highway has been identified as one of the most dangerous sections of rural highway in New Zealand.
A just-issued New Zealand Road Assessment Programme, called KiwiRAP, includes the tight and winding State Highway 43 from Stratford to Taumarunui in a list of seven highway links that have had big increases in fatal and serious crashes.
Motorcyclists are responsible for 60 per cent of these crashes, says the report, which compares statistics from 2002-2006 with those from 2007-2011.
Numbers of serious and fatal crashes on SH43 increased from seven to 15 between the two time periods.
"The most obvious change over this length of road appears to be in the number of weekend motorcycle crashes increasing from three in 2002-06 to nine in 2007-11," the report says.
Taranaki motorcyclist and motorcycle dealer Craig Morrison said the high percentage of motorcycle crashes was the result of a combination of the condition of the highway and "hooning".
"That highway is an unreal piece of road. But it's a highway, not a racetrack. That's why there are signs out along that highway warning people to take care."
The KiwiRAP report has reacted to the new statistics by changing the highway's personal risk rating from medium to high. This rating is a measure of the danger to each motorist using a state highway, and it is often highest on low-volume, lower standard, mountainous roads.
The report says, however, that the Forgotten World Highway is a very long, low-volume highway so its collective risk - the total number of crashes per kilometre - remains very low.
Taranaki is lumped into a larger lower North Island region that also encompasses Whanganui, Manawatu and Wellington.
Overall, the KiwiRAP report shows safety has improved significantly in the area, with the percentage of state highway considered to be of high collective risk falling from 9 per cent to 5 per cent, while low collective risk has increased from 15 per cent to 24 per cent.
Despite the higher personal risk assessment for SH43, the percentage of highway considered to be low risk has increased from 10 per cent to 32 per cent.
"What's really encouraging is that the combined length of highways rated as low risk has dropped by 123km - that's real progress, and it translates to safer journeys for everyone," NZTA regional state highways manager Rod James said.
Roading improvements on SH3 in Taranaki that have helped safety, included the Rugby Rd realignment near Tariki, the Muggeridge South realignment south of Manutahi, and a series of new passing lanes.
The state highways where there have been big increases in fatal and serious crashes between 2002-2006 and 2007-2011.
SH77 from Ashburton to Darfield: Crash numbers increased from seven to 27, with motorcycle crashes now accounting for 44 per cent of the fatal and serious crashes.
SH1 from Huntly to Hamilton: Crash numbers increased from 27 to 41. Very high traffic flows on an undivided carriageway. Particular concern being number of head-on crashes.
SH2 from Featherston to Upper Hutt: Crash numbers increased from 27 to 41, with motorcycle crashes now accounting for 53 per cent of the fatal and serious crashes.
SH25 from Whitianga to Waihi: Crash numbers increased from 20 to 32, with motorcycle crashes now accounting for 56 per cent of the fatal and serious crashes.
SH1 from Kaitaia to Ohaewai: Crash numbers increased from 13 to 23. No obvious key factors for this increase.
SH43 from Stratford to Taumarunui: Crash numbers increased from seven to 15, with motorcycle crashes now accounting for 60 per cent of the fatal and serious crashes.
SH82 from Kurow to SH1: Crash numbers increased from 2 to 8, with motorcycle crashes now accounting for 63 per cent of the fatal and serious crashes.
Taranaki Daily News