With the holidays just around the corner the NZ Transport Agency is urging Bay of Plenty drivers to make the right choices to keep safe on high risk roads, such as State Highway 2 north of Tauranga.
“This is a special time of the year and no holiday should be marred by an avoidable tragedy. Deaths and serious injuries on our roads are not inevitable, and every one of us has the power to make good decisions which will keep the roads safer for everyone,” says the Transport Agency’s Bay of Plenty acting highways manager, Adam Francis.
“More cars on the road, tired drivers and people driving on unfamiliar roads can make holidays not only more stressful but also more risky. That means staying focussed and keeping your speed down, driving sober, watching for the signs of fatigue and sharing the driving.”
Mr Francis says the Transport Agency is committed to improving safety for everyone that uses SH2 north.
“This year we have engaged with key stakeholders to identify ways to improve safety on SH2 between Bethlehem and Waihi, while considering where the highway fits in a national plan for transport in the upper north island,” he says.
“The project team has almost completed the proposal for future improvements. It will then be considered by the Transport Agency board for funding, alongside other projects from around the country.”
The outcome is expected in early 2016, when the Transport Agency will announce the long term plans for the road and when people can expect changes to occur.
Mr Francis says the route is one of the most complex stretches of state highway in the country and any long term fixes will involve property purchase.
“SH2 between Bethlehem and Waihi is a narrow two-lane rural highway with many intersections and driveways coming off it, “he says.
“This environment makes it hard to make long term changes such as installing central median barriers or building roundabouts without involving property purchase, and that takes some time.
“We also have to take into account the competing and growing demands on this road, from local people making trips to and from town, agricultural vehicles that service the horticultural sector, local freight vehicles, tourists and other road users. It is vital we get the right balance between safety and an efficient journey.”
While the team investigated changes, the Transport Agency, on behalf of the Government, has invested $5 million into safety improvements along the route.
This work has been carried out over the past year and included installing 10 kilometres of guard rail to prevent run off road crashes and provide hazard protection, removal of trees near intersections, and installation of wide centre lines to reduce the risk of head on crashes.
“Along with the safety works, we have supported Police on the ‘Own Your Road’ campaign, to tackle awareness of driver distraction on SH2 north of Tauranga,” Mr Francis says.
Data shows that many of the crashes on this stretch of road have been caused by distracted drivers, and the Transport Agency is committed to raising awareness of this so people can keep themselves safe.
As part of the campaign, Police are holding checkpoints on SH2 to educate drivers on the dangers of being distracted on this stretch of highway.
“We continue to work hard to improve safety on this route but everyone has a part to play in keeping themselves, and others, safe on our roads,” Mr Francis says.