Action to be taken before Christmas
A stretch of North Taranaki's black spot highway will have speed limits reduced and passing lanes removed in an effort to reduce its death and injury rate.
Speeds on State Highway 3, from Mangati Rd in Bell Block to Mahoetahi Rd, near Brixton, will be cut back to 80kmh before Christmas and the two passing lanes along the route shut.
"The crash rate at the intersections between Mangati Rd and Mahoetahi Rd is one of the worst in the country and we need to make a positive change to improve its safety," NZTA regional highways manager David McGonigal said in announcing the reduction yesterday.
"The crash rate is simply too high along this short stretch of State Highway 3, with a number of people killed or injured."
But the move is being criticised by frequent users of the road who say it will be confusing to motorists moving between 80kmh zones to 100kmh and back again.
Waitara resident Peter Bingham, former Taranaki Daily News associate editor, said he had used the road regularly for 30 years and describes the intersections with SH3 as "lethal", including his own at Raleigh St.
Drivers often played Russian roulette to get out on the main highway in times of peak traffic flow, he said.
"I can see what NZTA are doing but they don't go far enough.
It should be 80kmh from Princess St [Waitara] all the way into New Plymouth.
"If they have a patchwork of speed zones, it's stupid."
One of the worst was at SH3A and SH3 where trucks were often backed up waiting to get on to the highway.
"If the authorities had any brains they would put in roundabouts," Mr Bingham said.
The decision to cut back to 80kmh was made by both New Zealand Transport Agency and police - and supported by the trucking industry - after analysis of statistics shows a fatal crash in that area every one to two years and many more serious injury crashes.
Sergeant Stephen Richardson, of the Central District Road Policing unit, said he had attended many of serious crashes on that stretch of road.
"The needless deaths and lifelong injuries and disabilities from these crashes do not need to happen and these are mostly from simple mistakes," Mr Richardson said.
Those who felt the speed was too slow should reflect on those families who had experienced loss from crashes along that stretch of highway.
"Given the small loss of time resulting from the lower speed versus the reduced likelihood and severity of crashes, we believe the change will be well worthwhile," Mr Richardson said.
Road Transport Association New Zealand spokesman Tom Cloke approved of the lower speed limit.
"In this case, the small increase in travel time of around 40 seconds over the length of the proposed change will provide very significant safety benefits for the whole community," he said.
The changes will be implemented before Christmas and the Transport Agency intends consulting with the community and stakeholders on whether it should become permanent.
"We know that people will always make mistakes on the road, but these mistakes don't have to lead to deaths or serious injuries," Mr McGonigal said.
"Safer speeds make a real difference to preventing fatal and serious accidents on our roads."
An example was a recent serious crash near another identified blackspot at the Princess St-SH3 intersection where the limit has been temporarily reduced to 80kmh.
The driver might not have survived if they had been travelling faster, he said.
Taranaki Daily News