Sign blocking view at killer crossing

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014

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A road sign in the line of sight of drivers pulling out of Waitomo Caves Rd onto State Highway 3 could have contributed to the latest smash at the killer intersection.

Two American tourists became the latest North Americans to fall foul of the Hangitiki intersection of SH3 and SH37 about 5pm on Wednesday.

They received minor injuries when their rental car turned right from Waitomo on SH37 onto SH3, to head south towards Te Kuiti, and was struck by an oncoming northbound car driven by a Te Awamutu resident.

Ross O'Halloran, who uses the intersection nearly every day, said the sign would have contributed to the accident.

"[It] blocks your view as you're coming out of Waitomo onto the state highway. To see past it, you need to pull forward. It's OK if you're in a truck, but in a low car it impedes your vision to the right," Mr O'Halloran said.

As a Waitomo Caves tour guide, Mr O'Halloran said he tried to warn every visitor he met of the dangers of the intersection.

Wednesday's accident was the third involving North American tourists in the three years since the NZ Transport Agency altered the road layout in 2011.

Kallan Stithem died in a crash there in September 2012, while on his honeymoon. Seven months earlier, Canadian tourist Michele Smith was killed in her campervan at the intersection.

Mr O'Halloran said the "temporary" measures to slow traffic introduced after Mr Stithem's death were not working.

"It's amazing the number of people coming out of Waitomo Caves Rd going like the clappers," he said.

He recently spent some time waiting near the intersection for a friend, and was appalled by the speed levels, including by locals.

The transport agency is planning to build a $3 million roundabout 100 metres north of the intersection by Christmas, but Mr O'Halloran's father Jim described the wait as ridiculous.

He was not convinced the roundabout would solve the problem.

"I think separating the tourist traffic from the through traffic with a flyover is the way. Until you separate these two, you are going to have problems."

Earlier this week, Senior Constable Graeme Hammond said the roundabout "couldn't come soon enough".

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- Waikato Times

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