Crashes are happening at intersections.
People are approaching too fast and not taking the time needed to look in all directions.
Out of 71 districts nationwide, Waitaki ranked 12th in 2018 for intersection crashes, many of them caused because drivers are distracted.
Estimates say a typical person makes 180 driving decisions per minute.
Meanwhile, a multitude of other thoughts flood our minds, such as the busy day ahead, “the lawns need mowing”, “is it recycling tomorrow?” and “hey, what’s for tea tonight?”.
With such an array of concerns on a constant loop, it only takes a moment of inattention to lose awareness.
Many crashes happen close to home when drivers are relaxed and comfortable with the familiar surroundings. When approaching intersections, they expect to see what they’ve seen thousands of times before.
Your brain will fill in the gaps if you don’t scan properly. This could mean you miss crucial information such as a vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian.
Intersection crashes are avoidable and the best advice is basic. I asked local road police constable Howard Jackson for his feedback and he responded: “The vast majority of crashes I have attended at intersections are simply caused by people trying to rush through them and failing to properly look before pulling out.
“The only advice I could give that would prevent so many intersection crashes is to slow the whole process down. Stop, look and then look again before you make a decision.
“No-one pulls out of an intersection with the intention of causing a crash. We are all human and can make mistakes but those simple actions would go a long way to preventing crashes.”
This isn’t rocket science.
The outcomes of a serious or minor crash can remain for many months, years or forever.
As well as properly checking each intersection, motorists should always use their indicators, have a clear windscreen and if it’s dark, foggy, raining or overcast, turn on their lights. That way, their vision is clear and other vehicles will see them and know what they are doing.
Waitaki intersections with a crash history have had safety improvements. Most noticeable in recent times would be the Reed/Eden St and Wansbeck/Tyne St intersections, which have both been converted to roundabouts.
These are safer than a standard intersection since in the event of a crash, the impact will be less, due to the deflected angle of the collision. Also the Wansbeck and Wharfe St intersection layout and road-markings have been improved, which will increase visibility and slow down traffic.
There are 1083 intersections in this district: plenty of chances to pause and get it right.
★ Elton Crane is the Waitaki District Council road safety co-ordinator.