Slow down and live

Waipa Post - - Front Page - BY DEAN TAY­LOR

In last week's edi­tion we re­ported the Waikato Re­gional Trans­port Com­mit­tee's de­ci­sion to seek govern­ment sup­port to re­duce the speed limit on Waikato ru­ral roads from 100km/h to 80-90km/h.

Com­mit­tee chair Hugh Ver­coe asked As­so­ci­ate Min­is­ter of Trans­port Julie Anne Gen­ter to act quickly to al­low coun­cils to more eas­ily change their speed lim­its as part of ef­forts to re­duce the num­ber of deaths on Waikato roads.

The Waikato re­gion has the worst statis­tics in New Zealand for road deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries, mak­ing up 20 per cent of na­tional ca­su­al­ties each year — and last week, when the de­ci­sion was an­nounced, we lived up to our un­for­tu­nate ti­tle.

And the same week, neigh­bour­ing ru­ral dis­trict Taranaki had New Zealand's worst road crash in 13 years when seven lives were taken in a two-car crash on SH3 near Waver­ley.

In our re­gion there were four road fa­tal­i­ties and one man was crit­i­cally in­jured.

One of the fa­tal­i­ties was Hamil­ton man War­ren Bell (69) who died after step­ping into the path of a car on Tas­man Rd in Hamil­ton.

Like the crash near Waver­ley, the other se­ri­ous crashes were all on ru­ral roads.

Hamil­ton man Boyd Katipa (54) died on SH1 near Cam­bridge when his ute and a Toll truck col­lided.

Robert Cri­toph (48) of Wai­ter­imu died at Waitakaru¯ru¯, on the no­to­ri­ous stretch of SH2, in a T-bone crash. An­other per­son suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries and three oth­ers mod­er­ate in­juries.

New Ply­mouth woman Char­lotte Ash­ton (27) died on SH3 near Otoro­hanga ¯ in a head-on crash with a truck.

On Ro­to­waro Rd, near Glen Afton, a truck crash re­sulted in crit­i­cal in­juries for the 59-year-old driver.

Statis­tics show our re­gion has 18 per cent more deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries than the na­tional av­er­age and 70 per cent of these are on open roads with speed lim­its of 100km/h.

Waikato Re­gional Trans­port Com­mit­tee says anal­y­sis by the Speed Man­age­ment Guide and NZ Trans­port Agency shows that more than 80 per cent of Waikato's ru­ral roads have speed lim­its higher than what is safe.

And judg­ing by the num­ber of fa­tal crashes on the re­gion's state high­way sys­tem, NZTA may well be wise to look it it's speed lim­its also.

Stud­ies show that de­creas­ing av­er­age speeds by just a small amount — 1 per cent — re­sults in a four­fold de­crease in death and se­ri­ous in­jury crashes.

That equates to three peo­ple sur­viv­ing last week's crashes.

Lower travel speeds in­crease a driver's ef­fec­tive field of view and gives a driver more time to re­act to a hazard, thereby avoid­ing or re­duc­ing the sever­ity of a crash.

And speed af­fects the out­come of ev­ery crash, re­gard­less of the cause, and ex­ces­sive or in­ap­pro­pri­ate speeds make out­comes worse.

It is fair to say ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in Waikato and Taranaki are in shock fol­low­ing the se­ries of crashes last week, per­haps we have to trans­fer that shock into sup­port for the ac­tions of the Waikato Re­gional Trans­port Com­mit­tee — and for us all to re­mem­ber to drive to the con­di­tions, be pa­tient and look after fel­low road users.

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