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Safety signal trial at risky intersections in Northland


Electronic warning signs have been installed at two high-risk rural intersections in Northland as part of a national trial by the NZ Transport Agency to improve safety and reduce crashes.

The signs – known officially as Rural Intersection Activated Warning Signs (RIAWS) – are located at the State Highway 1/10 intersection at Pakaraka and at the State Highway 10/11 intersection at Puketona. They became operational today (Friday, 11 October).

“Both intersections are high risk with a poor crash history,” says the Transport Agency’s State Highway Manager, Tommy Parker. “The signs are activated when a vehicle is about to make a turn at the intersection. They are designed to help alert drivers of other vehicles and to encourage them to reduce their speeds when a potential collision situation exists.”

In the 10 years since 2003, there have been 10 injury crashes at the SH1/10 intersection. Five people have been seriously injured, and 16 suffered minor injuries.

At the SH10/11 intersection, there were 15 injury-related crashes in the 10 years since 2003. One person has been killed, one seriously injured, and 28 suffered minor injuries.        

Two different sets of signs will be used in the Pakaraka and Puketona trials.  Both sets are fitted with LED lighting, activated automatically when vehicles approach an intersection to make a turn.  One set will flash a “slow down” warning to drivers, and the second will flash a “70kph” alert to drivers.

The two sets of signs will be monitored to see if one is more effective than the other. During the trial, the signs will be swapped between the two locations.

Mr Parker says vehicle-activated signs to make high-risk rural intersections safer are a key objective of the Transport Agency’s Safer Journeys strategy, which aims to create a road system in New Zealand free of fatalities and serious injury.

“The signs help deliver two important safety benefits - one is to alert drivers that another vehicle is approaching an intersection, and the other is to lower speeds and reduce the severity of any crashes that do occur at those intersections.

“A large number of intersection crashes on the open highway involve crossing or turning crashes between two vehicles, and we know that the risk of a fatality or serious injury for side impact crashes increases significantly at speeds above 50kph.

“To create safer intersections at rural locations like Puketona and Pakaraka, travel speeds should be no more than 70kph which would drop even lower if a driver brakes. “

Mr Parker says the reduced 70kph speed limit will only apply when the signs are activated, otherwise the open speed limit of 100kph will continue to apply.

The trial will continue for two years to assess the impact the signs have on safety at the two intersections.  After this time, they will continue to be used if the trial is successful.

Rural Intersection Activated Warning Signs are also being tested in Manawatu, Canterbury and Southland.