A view of the dangerous intersection from Norfolk Road. PHOTO/FILE
Someone will die at a notorious intersection if safety improvements aren’t made soon, says a road safety advocate.
A head-on crash at the intersection of State Highway 2 (SH2) and Norfolk Rd/Cornwall Rd on September 22 is the latest in a long line of crashes and near misses on the stretch of road.
The incident has led to renewed calls from mayors and a road safety advocate for urgent safety improvements, with NZTA admitting there have been “numerous” crashes on the road, and saying consultation on changes could happen before the end of the year.
Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said crashes involving turning traffic on state highways were always a concern because of the high speeds – “it’s a 100kmh impact”.
“Often it ends up in death or serious injury.”
Councils and mayors had long lobbied for change, he said.
“How long do we wait before there is a fatality there?
“There needs to be resolution where we get the stretch of state highway as safe as possible.”
Mr Pauling has forwarded a database of interested parties to NZTA to consult with during its investigation.
“I just hope a resolution is found soon, and safety improvements are put in, before we experience any more crashes like this.”
Carterton District Council Mayor John Booth is another person calling for action, driven by repeated reports “about the incredible number of near misses there” from people that live and work near the intersection.
“We have had some serious accidents there, nothing fatal at this point… but that’s a scenario just waiting to happen.”
The issue was exacerbated by the increasing level of traffic, among them large trucks, chugging along SH2.
“Even though Norman Avenue is open further down, the Waingawa industrial park is really galloping away now. It’s an area of rapid development.”
The problem was becoming urgent.
“To have enhanced safety around that intersection is now becoming, my personal opinion, quite critical.”
People could always say they needed to be realistic about timeframes and finances, but the “ultimate value” had to been placed on people’s lives.
NZTA’s manager of system management Wellington Mark Owen said they were investigating the entire corridor of SH2 stretching between Masterton and Carterton.
“There has been numerous crashes along that stretch, and yes, the intersections are one of the problems, but a lot of the crashes are also not at the intersections, they are on the straights.”
The section between Ngaumutawa Rd and Norfolk Rd was heavily used by a variety of road users.
“…we need to make sure we have covered all those road users, so we will put a range of options on the table and we will seek feedback from people that have an interest in that area.”
That would be done before the end of the year, Mr Owen said.
Statistics show that in the 10 years to 2016, 17 people have been seriously injured in recorded crashes along the 8.7km stretch of road between Masterton and Carterton.
Most of these injuries were caused by head-on crashes and by drivers running off the road and hitting objects such as ditches, fences and poles.
Looking specifically at the Norfolk Rd/Cornwall Rd/SH 2 intersection, in the 10 years to 2016 there had been one serious crash, six minor crashes, and three non-injury crashes.
Senior Sergeant Mike Sutton said the intersection was well-known to police as an area of risk.
It was hard to determine the extent of the problem, as near misses were not usually reported, he said.
“Speed is often a factor there and people need to be very aware that a little mistake can have big consequences — a small error of judgement could have a fatal outcome.”
Masterton fire senior station officer Mike Cornford said he had attended numerous crashes at the SH2 and Norfolk Rd intersection over the years.
“It’s a very, very busy intersection . . . and definitely one of our more dangerous spots.”
He said yesterday’s crash had been a head-on collision.
“One car had been heading north and went to turn into Cornwall Rd and collided with another car heading south.”
No one was seriously injured or trapped, however both vehicles were extensively damaged.
Mr Cornford said the road was closed for a short time.
Masterton District Council Mayor Lyn Patterson said she wanted to also see improvements at that intersection.