The NZ Transport Agency and Police are urging motorists to slow down when travelling on State Highway 1 (SH1) past the new Atiamuri Bridge construction site. Police carried out an operation to catch speedsters at the site late last month and found a significant number of drivers were ignoring the 50 km/h temporary speed restriction signs, placing themselves, other road users and road workers at risk.
The Police operation saw drivers ticketed at speeds of up to 90 km/h, with most offenders clocked in the mid-70s range. NZTA state highway manager, Kaye Clark, says the length of the new Atiamuri Bridge site along either side of SH1 is quite extensive, as it includes a new 1.5 km northbound passing lane and improvement works at the intersection of SH1 and SH30. "Every road works or construction site is a potential hazard, but the risks are much greater on busy highways like this one, particularly given the high volume of heavy freight traffic passing through every day."
"Speeding through this area and any site where construction or road works are being carried out is a serious concern," says Mrs Clark. "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 our contractors as safe as possible."
Mrs Clark says that over the last five years (January 2007 – December 2011 inclusive) there have been 131 fatal or serious crashes on New Zealand roads undergoing construction or maintenance work – an average of 26 crashes per year. "These crashes result in on average 31 deaths or serious casualties annually."
"It's not just about avoiding a broken windscreen from loose seal being flicked off tyres. We want drivers to not only consider their own safety, but to also remember that our workers are real people with families, carrying out their jobs in a tough high speed, high risk environment for the benefit of all who rely on our roading network," says Mrs Clark.
"Failing to keep to speed limits - whether permanent or temporary - is also breaking the law," says Acting Road Policing Manager (Bay of Plenty) Deirdre Lack. "During last month’s blitz we had five staff on deck and they were kept on the go the whole time by people blatantly ignoring the speed restriction in place. This was when road workers were working in the closed lane or requiring access across the single live lane. This is incredibly dangerous."
Ms Lack says Police will be actively patrolling the Atiamuri Bridge construction site area to ensure speedsters are noted and dealt with accordingly. "We have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to this issue. We want to prevent crashes rather than deal with the aftermath."
The NZTA's Kaye Clark says contractors will be assisting Police with their efforts to catch speeding drivers at the site. "They’ll be taking down the details of speeding vehicles and reporting them to police. Saving a few minutes by speeding through worksites is not worth risking your safety or the safety of others. Please, be patient, plan your journey to allow for delays around road work sites along the way, keep to the speed restrictions and always drive to the conditions."
A map showing the extent of the Atiamuri Bridge Replacement project site is available on the Atiamuri Bridge project subsite.
Motorists can plan their journey by checking updated road conditions with the NZTA's freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS or 0800 44 44 49, or online at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link).