Mayor against police call to lower speed limit on Coromandel road after an increase in vehicle crashes

Traffic on the Kopu Hikuai Rd at Kopu, near Thames.

Traffic on the Kopu Hikuai Rd at Kopu, near Thames.

Police want to lower the speed limit on a dangerous Coromandel highway but the local Mayor is not keen.

Thames roading sergeant Jim Corbett said there had already been 70 crashes on the Kopu-Hikuai Rd, or State Highway 25A, since July last year.

This compared to 74 crashes on the same stretch of road in the year to July 1, 2016.

Police are urging motorists to read the signs and slow down for the many tight corners on the Kopu Hikuai Rd.

Police are urging motorists to read the signs and slow down for the many tight corners on the Kopu Hikuai Rd.

Many of the crashes resulted in serious injuries and in one accident recently, a St John ambulance was hit by another vehicle.

There were three accidents on the Kopu-Hikuai Rd on the weekend of April 22-23 alone, he said.

"I think it's just the drivers are not driving to the conditions and their environment. They are coming on to the Kopu-Hikuai Rd from the Hauraki Plains and they are not slowing down," he said.

"The majority of crashes actually happen when the roads are wet. If the roads are wet, it's more important to slow down before you get into the corner."

Corbett said Thames Police had recommended to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) that the speed limit between Kopu and the Whangamata turn off be lowered from 100km/h to 80km/h.

However, Thames-Coromandel district mayor Sandra Goudie said lowering the speed limit to 80km/h was "way too extreme". Instead, more passing lanes were needed, which council had recommended to NZTA, she said.

"Most areas where they've lowered the speed limit, they lowered it to 90km/h. I don't support 80km/h and I'm reluctant to lower it to 90," she said.

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"I'm not the best person to talk to because I like to drive to the speed limit. But I'm comfortable with the road, I know it.

"I'm not a big fan of lowering speed limits but if that's what the community wants."

Goudie said the biggest issue for her on the road was the number of motorists crossing the centre line. She also thought the Thames Coast Rd was in more urgent need of improvements than the Kopu-Hikuai Rd.

Corbett said most of the motor vehicle accidents happened on the first 8km of the road from Kopu. The roading authority was also looking at three or four corners where there had been multiple accidents, he said.

Signage warning drivers to reduce speed had been placed at those corners, but people were still not slowing down, he said.

"People don't seem to read the signs or obey the signs.

"I hope [NZTA] look at things sooner rather than later to try and reduce the number of crashes. With winter coming up, with ice and wet roads, if people aren't going to slow down, the crashes are going to continue to happen."

Most of the crashes involved locals or drivers from the cities travelling to holiday homes, and not tourists, Corbett said.

"Some of the drivers crashing are actually young drivers who have never driven on winding roads and the environment that the Kopu Hikuai offers."

NZTA director of regional relationships Parekawhia McLean said NZTA was in the process of developing a regional speed management programme with local stakeholders. Safer speeds in the Coromandel, including the Kopu-Hikuai Rd, would be considered as part of this.

"Under the new speed management guide, we will engage with the community and other stakeholders such as the AA and police throughout the process. We are expecting to start these conversations next year," he said.

"Speed is just one aspect that can be looked at to make a road safer. The Transport Agency uses the safe system approach, which looks across the entire road system to improve safety by creating safer roads and roadsides, safer speeds, safer vehicles and safer road use."

 - Stuff

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