Dicing with death on the roadside

Police are warning people of the dangers of walking on state highways in the dark.

Urenui woman Helen Beard drives along State Highway 3 every day and said she frequently sees people walking between New Plymouth and Waitara.

On Monday she was driving home at 9.30pm when she narrowly avoided hitting a boy dressed from head to toe in black clothes walking on the side of the road near the Waiongana bridge.

"You couldn't see him at all. I had to swerve to not hit him."

Shaken, she turned around and went to report him to a policeman she had seen pulled up on the side of the road.

"I got there and he had another kid there and said he was telling him off for the exact same thing."

She said she had let rip at the boy. "I said to him, ‘you deserve to get hit and killed'."

She said she was angry and scared that she could have hit someone.

"We'd get blamed for it even though it was pitch black dark and you can't see them. If I'd hit him I would've been up for something."

Senior Sergeant Allan Whaley said if motorists did everything right on the road and were not driving dangerously or carelessly it would be unlikely they would face charges, though there were many variables and it depended on the circumstances.

But he said it was common for people to walk or drive into New Plymouth on a Friday or Saturday night.

"It's an accident waiting to happen and it will happen more often if people aren't more aware," Mrs Beard said.

She said it was always an issue but the death of 19-year-old Wiremu Thompson who was hit by an alleged drunk driver on Sunday morning highlighted the risks of walking on the road.

"It just makes you angry, that just happened the other day and the next day you see people out doing the same thing."

Sergeant Phil Quinn, of Waitara, would not comment on people drinking at night in New Plymouth and then walking the 16 kilometres home to Waitara, but he did say there were few options for transport other than driving or walking at night.

"I think it would cost about $60 to get a taxi.

"I make a habit of stopping and asking what they're doing and offering them a ride because it is dangerous," he said.

He said walking on the road is not illegal or a problem in itself, but often people were not dressed appropriately and could not easily be seen by motorists, especially in low light.

"If I was walking on the highway I would make myself visible. I'd have hi-vis or reflective clothing on."

SH3 between Bell Block and Waitara was a dangerous stretch of road, he said.

"It's the reason the speed has been reduced. There's a huge volume of traffic that goes through there and a lot of it is trucks and heavy vehicles."

He said even walking on the grass verge could be risky as it was narrow and uneven and people could stumble easily in the dark.

Taranaki Daily News