Barrier pays off with saved lives
The wire-rope median barrier along Centennial Highway is continuing to prevent head-on crashes as it chalks up more than 100 hits.
A southbound Toyota Hilux, driven by a 65- year- old Kapiti man, clipped two vehicles this month, before mounting the barrier and taking out about 250 metres of it.
The driver, who is thought to have had a stroke, was flown by the Westpac rescue helicopter to Wellington Hospital.
One lane was closed by the accident, causing long delays.
However, NZ Transport Agency regional performance manager Mark Owen said that if the barrier had not been in place ‘‘motorists travelling in the opposite direction would almost certainly have been struck head- on with serious or fatal results’’.
A southbound vehicle towing a trailer stacked with wood recently had a tyre blowout, causing the vehicle to crash into the barrier, damaging about 80 metres of it, Kapiti police said.
The 3.5 kilometre, $15 million barrier was installed south of Paekakariki along the coastal route after strong lobbying from emergency doctor Chris Lane, who attended most fatal and serious accidents along the treacherous stretch of highway for 25 years.
In 2005, after seven deaths from head-on crashes the previous year, coroner Garry Evans recommended a cable barrier be built from Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki as a matter of urgency.
Owen said that, in the 10 years before it was installed in 2005, there were 15 fatal and serious crashes, resulting in 16 deaths and 14 serious injuries on the section of highway.
Since it was built – and extended in 2007 – the barrier had been struck more than 100 times, ‘‘each involving a potentially tragic crash that was averted’’, Owen said.
In that time, there had been no deaths and only one serious injury crash.
‘‘ That is a massive turnaround. The annual cost of crashes along this route has reduced by 99 per cent, down from nearly $7m a year to around $65,000.’’
Work is under way on the Kapiti expressway and Transmission Gully sections of the highway and, when completed before the end of the decade, Wellington would have a fully divided northern highway separated by median barriers, he said.
performanc’e NZ Transport Agency regional
manager Mark Owen Tragedy averted: A four-wheel-drive took out 250 metres of wire-rope median barrier south of Paekakariki this month, blocking State Highway 1, but the driver survived and nobody else was hurt.