A new safety initiative has been launched by the NZ Transport Agency to reduce what it describes as an "alarming" number of incidents involving drivers and workers maintaining Auckland's busy motorway network.
The NZTA says in three years to October 2011, there were 183 reported near misses involving people driving dangerously beside motorway work sites. During the same time, there were 17 reported incidents of workers put at risk by people driving into active worksites and nine incidents involving strikes into the protective cushions on Truck Mounted Attenuator (TMA) vehicles used to alert drivers of work sites.
"Fortunately no one's been hurt, but nevertheless the number of near misses is alarming and needs to be drastically reduced before a road worker is seriously injured or killed," says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker. "Some drivers assume that temporary speed limits are in place solely to protect them and their vehicles, when in fact they are set to keep both drivers and road workers as safe as possible."
The NZTA, together with its Auckland Motorway Alliance, have started the safety initiative under their new "Motorway Manners" campaign to promote safer driving on motorways to give workers greater protection.
"Our network carries an average 900,000 vehicles daily, and if drivers are careful and courteous and show motorway manners, most incidents can be prevented," says Mr Parker. "'Merge like a zip' is an example of courteous driving that works very well by reminding drivers to give way and allow others to enter safely when merging in a multi-lane environment."
Workers employed by the Auckland Motorway Alliance workers are responsible for keeping the highway surface to a high and safe standard, removing litter and graffiti, and maintaining lighting and motorway signage.
"We want drivers to remember that our workers are real people with families, carrying out their jobs in a tough high speed, high risk environment day and night for the benefit of all who rely on the motorway network," Mr Parker says.
As part of the safety initiative, billboards at on-ramps and the side of the motorway will ask motorists to remember road worker safety when approaching or driving through a work site.
The billboards contain images of real road workers and NZTA staff, with messages such as "Watch and slow down your speed around road workers". One billboard features a young girl next to the message "Let my Dad get home safely".
"Driver behaviour is the number one contributing factor in motorway incidents and crashes, and one of the most significant influences on the safe operation of the Auckland motorway network," says Mr Parker. "By promoting the use of motorway manners, the goal is to positively influence overall safe driver behaviour so our motorways are safer for motorists and road workers alike."
The road worker safety initiative follows the successful introduction of a number of innovative mechanisms by the AMA, including Advance Warning Variable Message Signs (AWVMS), integrated signage and contra flow barriers, to support the Government's Safer Journeys strategy.
The Auckland Motorway Alliance (AMA) was formed in 2008 to maintain and operate Auckland's 220kms of motorway network. Led by the NZTA, the AMA comprises Fulton Hogan, Opus International Consultants, Beca, Resolve Group and Armitage Systems Ltd.
As well as being a first point of call for customers, the AMA is responsible for the day to day operation of the 220 kilometres of the Auckland motorway network including traffic and environmental management, research and development, safety work, and maintenance.
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