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Road to zero . . . Waitaki District Council roading manager Mike Harrison says the number of deaths and serious injuries resulting from crashes at Waitaki intersections is "gut-wrenching". PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

“The fact we are having people being seriously injured, let alone dying, on our roads – that’s gut-wrenching.”

Waitaki District Council roading manager Mike Harrison is reflecting on the Waitaki district being ranked sixth-worst nationally for crashes at urban intersections.

Between 2015 and 2020, there were 1241 recorded crashes in the district, resulting in 12 deaths and 35 serious injuries, 30.5% of which occurred at intersections.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency placed Waitaki sixth on its communities at risk register. The Waimate district was the worst in the country.

And there were no signs it was improving, Mr Harrison said.

Between January 1 and May 18 this year, there were 22 crashes in Waitaki, resulting in one death, seven serious injuries and 21 minor injuries.

“It’s too many across the board. It comes down to Road to Zero – how many are you prepared to put up with?” he said.

To reach the Road to Zero targets set by the Ministry of Transport, Waitaki had to reduce the number of fatal and serious crashes on the district’s roads by 40% by 2030.

Questions over whether the council had done enough, or if it could be doing more, had been asked, but at the end of the day driving behaviour played a big part, he said.

“The biggest message out here at the moment is ‘slow down, and wear a seatbelt’.”

Speeds through intersections, the shape of intersections, and lower traffic volumes at intersections were all part of the problem.

Having less traffic meant drivers had an ingrained thought there were no other cars around, Mr Harrison said.

“Inherently, the more traffic we have, suddenly our roads become a lot safer. It’s a backwards way of looking at it.”

Senior Sergeant Jason McCoy said too many drivers went straight through intersections with stop or give way signs when they did not have the right of way.

Mobile phones were also becoming a big distraction for drivers.

“We get complacent when we shouldn’t,” Snr Sgt McCoy said.

Speed limits continued to be monitored, and council staff worked closely with Waka Kotahi on educational programmes.

The council hosted a road safety workshop for secondary school pupils this year, and it had funded defensive driving courses. Age Concern was also hosting staying safe workshops for those over 65.

Waitaki District Council road safety co-ordinator Jason Evered said many crashes were a result of basic errors.

“It’s things we can do while we’re sat at intersections. Look at the cars, make sure [you’re] slowing down as [you] approach the junction – if you don’t feel happy about it, don’t go out into the flow of traffic,” Mr Evered said.

The worst intersections for crashes in the Waitaki district from 2015 to 2020:

  • Mcaughtries Rd and SH8:Three crashes, two fatalities, five serious injuries.
  • Shortland Rd and TY Duncan Rd: One crash, two fatalities, one serious injury.
  • McLeods Rd and SH1: One crash, two fatalities.
  • Eden St and Thames St: Seven crashes, one serious injury.
  • Solway St and Wansbeck St:One crash, one fatality and one serious injury.
  • Trent St and Reed St: Two crashes, one fatality
  • Trent St and SH1: Four crashes, one serious injury.