Wire bar­ri­ers help to save lives on the hills

Whangarei Report - - HISTORY -

Wire safety bar­ri­ers on the Bryn­der­wyn Hills south of Whanga¯rei are be­ing cred­ited for pre­vent­ing al­most 40 po­ten­tially se­ri­ous crashes and pos­si­ble deaths since be­ing in­stalled three years ago.

The NZ Trans­port Agency started in­stalling the flex­i­ble road safety bar­ri­ers on State High­way 1, on the north­ern side of the Bryn­der­wyns, in Au­gust 2015 as part of the $18 mil­lion Bryn­der­wyns Im­prove­ments Pro­ject.

NZTA di­rec­tor of safety and en­vi­ron­ment Harry Wilson said the bar­ri­ers had worked as dozens of po­ten­tially se­ri­ous crashes had been avoided since they were in­stalled.

“The bar­ri­ers have been a life­saver ever since, with only two se­ri­ous in­jury crashes — in 2016 and 2018 — and no fa­tal­i­ties,” Wilson said.

“In the year to the end of July 2018, the bar­ri­ers were hit 37 times with enough force to re­quire re­pairs to the wire rope and re­place­ment of fence posts. Each time the bar­ri­ers are dam­aged we know a se­ri­ous crash has been avoided, and some­one has ei­ther driven or walked away from the in­ci­dent.

“Each time the cen­tre line bar­rier is dam­aged we know a po­ten­tial head-on col­li­sion has been avoided. Head-on and run-off-the road crashes ac­count for 75 per cent of crashes on ru­ral state high­ways.”

He said the Bryn­der­wyns pro­ject im­proved safety by widen­ing the road and shoul­ders, re­mov­ing tight cor­ners and in­stalling 14km of safety bar­ri­ers along the edge of the road and the cen­tre line to sep­a­rate north and south-bound traf­fic.

Wilson said from 2006-2010 there were five fa­tal­i­ties and four se­ri­ous in­juries on the sec­tion of road. In May 2010 the speed limit was low­ered from 100km/h to 80km/ h, which re­duced the num­ber of crashes. There was one se­ri­ous in­jury crash in 2013 and only two se­ri­ous in­jury crashes since the bar­ri­ers were in­stalled.

“Flex­i­ble safety bar­ri­ers are de­signed to stop traf­fic leav­ing the road or cross­ing the cen­tre line and col­lid­ing with solid ob­jects such as other ve­hi­cles, trees, poles and ditches. This helps cre­ates a more for­giv­ing road that can help stop sim­ple mis­takes be­com­ing fatal crashes,” he said.

Flex­i­ble road safety bar­ri­ers “catch” ve­hi­cles that are go­ing off the road. When a ve­hi­cle hits the wire rope safety bar­rier the ca­bles flex, slow­ing the ve­hi­cle and push­ing it back into its lane. This flex­i­bil­ity means the bar­rier ab­sorbs im­pact en­ergy, re­duc­ing the force on peo­ple in the ve­hi­cles, re­sult­ing in less se­vere in­juries than other safety bar­rier sys­tems and from col­li­sions with road­side haz­ards or other ve­hi­cles.

“This is the best pos­si­ble out­come for road users and proof that th­ese bar­ri­ers are highly ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing deaths and in­juries. We’re re­ally pleased to see the ben­e­fits of th­ese safety im­prove­ments pay­ing div­i­dends,” Wilson said.

NZTA said the wire bar­ri­ers were not more dan­ger­ous to mo­tor­cy­clists if they crash.

“Mo­tor­cy­clists have been op­posed to flex­i­ble road safety bar­ri­ers be­cause they think the steel ropes will act like a ‘cheese cut­ter’ when hit by a rider. How­ever, stud­ies have shown this as­sump­tion is not cor­rect.

“Mo­tor­cy­clists are more likely to sur­vive an im­pact with a flex­i­ble road safety bar­rier than an im­pact with trees, poles or oncoming ve­hi­cles which the bar­rier will pre­vent them strik­ing in a crash.”

North­land’s Re­gional Trans­port Com­mit­tee chair­man John Bain said there was no doubt the flex­i­ble bar­ri­ers had saved lives on the north­ern side of the Bryn­der­wyns, but the big prob­lem now was on the south side, which had no such bar­ri­ers nor the room to in­stall them.

“The safest flex­i­ble bar­ri­ers I’ve seen any­where in New Zealand are on the Hamil­ton-cam­bridge ex­press­way. It’s a four-lane high­way where they have in­creased the speed limit to 110km/h be­cause it is deemed to be so safe,” he said.

“I’m sure there are times the bar­ri­ers have stopped peo­ple cross­ing the cen­tre lines and averted dis­as­ter, but the re­al­ity now is that the main prob­lem is the south side of the Bryn­der­wyns, where a re­cent truck ac­ci­dent blocked the road for eight or nine hours.”

Bain said the trans­port com­mit­tee saw four-lan­ing SH1 from Whanga¯ rei to Kai­waka as the best pos­si­ble road safety mea­sure for the re­gion.

He said the high­way would by­pass the Bryn­der­wyns at some stage, but un­til then peo­ple would still cross the cen­tre line on the road south of Whanga¯ rei and four-lan­ing would make the high­way much safer.

PHOTO / MICHAEL CUN­NING­HAM

Th­ese wire safety bar­ri­ers placed on the north­ern side of the Bryn­der­wyn Hills in 2015 are be­ing cred­ited with sav­ing lives.

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