Frustrated motorists run lights at bad intersection
In part two of our Making it Safe series, Aaron Leaman examines one of Hamilton's most notorious crossroads.
Few would blame Jeff Richards for harbouring an aversion toward the intersection of Bridge St and Victoria St.
As one of Hamilton's major inner-city pressure points, motorists' patience is frequently tested during peak-hour purgatory.
Turning right from Bridge St into Tisdall St also presents its own challenge with no right green arrow to help crossing motorists.
For Mr Richards, however, the intersection was the scene of an unwanted first.
"It's where I had my first accident," the 64-year-old explains.
"I'd had my licence about a year, I was about 21 or 22 at the time, and an older guy ploughed into me from behind. I was travelling down Bridge St when the lights changed and I rather hastily braked. It was the right thing to do, but this old guy drove right into me. My Hillman Minx had a tow bar so my car wasn't badly damaged but the front of his car was a mess."
Mr Richards said the other driver demanded he fix his car despite Mr Richards being in the right.
"But my father was like ‘no way in hell will you pay, this guy's trying to con you'."
According to police statistics, there have been four serious crashes at the Hamilton intersection in the five years to 2011.
A further nine crashes resulted in 11 minor injuries.
Despite the intersection being a mere stone's throw away from the Hamilton police station, the site is high on the list of the worst intersections based on accidents.
A Waikato Times stake-out of the intersection at rush hour revealed numerous drivers trying to get across the site after the lights turned orange.
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said a person only had to visit the intersection "and listen" to discover why so many crashes happened there.
"When the amber light comes up you can hear all the revs go up as people try and get across the intersection rather than put the brakes on.
"Everybody's in a hurry because they think they'll lose a few minutes at the lights."
Mr Tooman said motorists trying to beat the lights was a big contributing factor in crashes but also people sometimes inadvertently lost sight of the lights.
"Especially when people are coming down Bridge St [heading east] they might miss the lights if they're focused on where they're heading which is the bridge."
Hamilton City Council city transport manager Phil Consedine said Hamilton's intersections were ranked according to "severity factor" and social cost.
The Bridge St-Victoria St intersection was one of the worst, he said.
"This is one of the busiest intersections in Hamilton with more than 35,000 vehicle movements per day. Like all Hamilton intersections controlled by traffic lights, studies have shown 18 per cent of intersection accidents are caused by motorists running a red light.
"This intersection is no exception, with a significant factor in the crashes being the various turning movements, particularly right turns."
Mr Consedine said the council planned to upgrade the intersection early next year, including changing the physical layout and improving pedestrian and public transport connections.
The work is expected to cost between $70,000 and $100,000.
An NZTA subsidy will cover 55 per cent of total costs.
The upgrade will also involve replacing any remaining quartz halogen lights with brighter LED lights.
Mr Richards said he tended to travel through the intersection only on weekends but had seen numerous near-misses, especially with southbound traffic turning left from Victoria St onto Bridge St.
"Cars tend to dart out of there and I've seen so many close calls there or glass on the road. You've just got to be so careful."
The series continues tomorrow when we look at the intersection of State Highway 1 and SH5, south of Tirau.
BY THE NUMBERS
Bridge St and Victoria St intersection, 2007 - 2011:
100 per cent of accidents typified by drivers failing to give way or stop
100 per cent of serious crashes happened in dry conditions
80 per cent of serious crashes were caused or partly caused by male drivers on a full licence.