For many motorcyclists in Wellington, Easter is the ideal time to take the bike out for a long ride and one of the most popular routes in the region is the Rimutaka Hill Road.
But despite the seemingly good conditions that Easter brings - fine weather, dry roads and good light – it is also the most common time for crashes to occur on the Rimutaka Hill Road. About 26 of all crashes on the Rimutaka Hill Road occur in March, according to NZTA crash data collected over the past five years.
More than three quarters (79%) of all motorbike crashes on the Rimutaka Hill Road occurred during daylight hours (9am to 6pm) when visibility was better.
“The topography of the road makes it an attractive challenge to riders, including myself. But it also means that it will always be a high risk road, regardless of the weather or conditions so motorcyclists can never afford to get complacent when travelling over the Rimutaka Hill,” said NZTA’s Wellington State Highway Manager Rod James.
NZTA’s statistics show that the type of motorcyclist most likely to be injured on the Rimutaka Hill Road are males aged 30 to 59-years-old. This age group were involved in 63% of all crashes.
Increasing the safety of motorcycling is a priority under Safer Journeys, the government's strategy to guide improvements in road safety over the period 2010–2020. The strategy's vision is a safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury. The organisations responsible for delivering on this action plan include: the Ministry of Transport, NZTA, New Zealand Police, ACC and Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).
Motorcycle crashes on this route are therefore a concern for a number of organisations each of whom has an interest in seeing a reduction in the number of crashes.
(NZTA crash data for Rimutaka Hill Road, for the past five years (as at 12 December 2012):
- Half of all motorbike crashes occurred in the summer (December to March inclusive). The peak time for crashes is March when 26% of crashes occur
- The type of rider most at risk is the ‘returning rider ‘. Around 63% of injury-related crashes over the past five years on the Rimutaka Hill Road involved a male motorcyclist aged 30 to 59-years-old.
- More than 70% of motorbike crashes involved a single party
- 84% of crashes were caused by loss of control on a bend
- According to KiwiRap, the risk on the Rimutaka Hill Road has increased for all road users. Fatal and serious injury crash numbers are up from 20 to 34. The main change is the number of fatal and serious injury motorcycle crashes which have increased from 8 in 2002-06 to 18 in 2007-11.
What NZTA is doing
Given the topography of the area, there is a limit to the physical improvements we can make. However, we are working to make the road and roadsides safer.
- Between 2009 and 2011, we invested $16 million smoothing out Muldoon's Corner - the sharpest and tightest corner on the road – as well as easing other corners, straightening out the road, adding new guard rail and resurfacing a 1km section of road.
- This summer we are investing around $600,000 on continuing to replace the wire and post fence with new sections of guard rail at high risk sites on the Rimutaka Hill Road. We will be installing more than 3.5km of guard rail in total.
- We’ve also invested in providing a new surface for a section of the Rimutaka Hill Road (on the Featherstone side of the hill) which will make the surface more skid-resistant and reduce the risk of wet weather-related crashes. This work is likely to happen in February.
- The increase in motorcycle crashes is a concern regionally and nationally. Regionally, we have been talking to local motorcycle groups and providing them with information about safe cycling. Nationally motorcycle injuries are being addressed by Safer Journeys, which has made it a priority area for action.
We are also teaming up with other government agencies like ACC, and NZ Police as well as local government partners to raise awareness of safety on this popular route.
The achievements have included:
- Printing 5,000 copies of a Safe Motorcycling over the Rimutakas brochure which all road safety partners will be distributing
- Changing all the billboards along SH2 from Wellington over the Masterton to display a motorcycle safety message for this month
- Doing a motorcycle drive through of the road filming the ride on a camera, so safety engineers could look at any tight points or issues
- Using the drive through on YouTube as a ‘How to drive the Rimutakas safely’ video which will be promoted.
Look out for more initiatives in the months to come.