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The roadside hazards of being a stop/go operator

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Stop/go operators are a common sight on the state highways in summer at emergency or planned road maintenance sites. The operators are on the roadside all day, in all weather, in their hi viz gear, directing the flow of traffic with their stop/go sign, a walkie talkie and a smile.

It doesn’t look like a dangerous job, but Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Northland System Manager, Jacqui Hori-Hoult, says it can be. 

“Just before Christmas we had two incidents where stop/go operators reported “near misses” as they were nearly hit by vehicles passing too close or speeding through the work site.” 

“This is unacceptable driving behaviour because it puts everyone at risk – not just the stop/go operator who is the first person motorists encounter as they approach a work site – but other crew members and road users as well.” 

“These are mothers, fathers, brother and sisters just doing a job. They go to work each day expecting to be able to go home safely at the end of the day. Safety is our highest priority, but we can’t keep our people safe if other people selfishly show no regard for their well-being.” 

“A few road cones and a stop/go sign are no protection from a speeding vehicle. Please slow down and keep to the temporary speed limit.”

Another roadside hazard for the stop/go operators is abusive motorists. 

“In a recent incident, a man got out of his vehicle and was shouting and waving his arms around like he wanted to start a fight. That was very scary for our operator, who was on her own at the time.” 

Ms Hori-Hoult says all such incidents are reported to police. 

She says the point of a stop/go operation is to try to keep traffic moving in both directions when the state highway is reduced to one lane. 

“We try to keep delays to a minimum but sometimes traffic builds up. We try to get people on their way as quickly as possible.” 

Road crews have been off the state highways over the Christmas - New Year break, but work resumes this week. 

“The summer months are our busiest time of year for road resurfacing and repairs as we try to take advantage of the dry conditions and long sunny days. This work is essential for the safety and resilience of the state highway network, so we ask motorists to be patient and understanding.” 

“If you are stopped by a stop/go operator, use the time to pause and relax, have a stretch or wind down the windows to get some fresh air. You will soon be on your way again.” 

“No one ever gets to their destination faster by abusing or shouting at a stop/go operator.”

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