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‘Safer speeds’ solution to Waitomo’s fatal SH3 intersection

Changes to a SH3 intersection at Waitomo where an American honeymooner died last month will be consistent with the region’s approach to road safety, the Waikato regional transport committee has heard

Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna added an item regarding the fatal intersection to the agenda at this week’s committee meeting.

Kallan Stithem, 31, died on September 20 after making a right hand turn from SH37 and colliding with a concrete mixer. His wife, Kirsten, 28, was seriously injured in the crash.

“The Waitomo Caves is often the first port of call for international visitors,” Mr Hanna said. “There’s been so many near misses [at this intersection] and even locals struggle coming out into the 100km/h zone.

“We need to take these safety issues seriously, because it’s our reputation for tourism in the Waikato that is affected,” he said.

Waikato road policing manager Leo Tooman said for many arriving in New Zealand it is “probably the first time they’ve been on a rural type road”.

“Nobody deserves to die from a mistake they make,” Mr Tooman said. “It is a complex issue and how we change people’s behaviour is a tough one.”

NZ Transport Agency regional manager Harry Wilson has visited the site since the fatal crash and acknowledged there was “no easy engineering solution”.

“We’ve got to make the road as self-explaining as we can, with good signage,” he said.

Already temporary traffic management measures have been implemented, including a drop in the speed limit. “Our current thinking is that we will modify the intersection, narrow down the road and permanently lower the speed to about 80km/h,” Mr Wilson said.

The changes will be consistent with the ‘safe system’ approach which is being embedded across the region to reduce carnage on Waikato roads, the committee has heard.

The ‘safe system’ approach adopted in the Waikato is in line with international best practice and the Government’s Safer Journeys strategy, and has been instrumental in significantly reducing road trauma in many European countries. It aims to create a forgiving road system resulting in a reduction in fatal and serious crashes – one in which human error does not result in a loss of life.

It is a fundamentally different approach based on working across all elements that contribute to road safety: safe road users, safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, and safe vehicles.

 

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