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Steering at the obvious

Poor handling and inappropriate speed are the most common contributing factors to crashes on the Remutaka Hill Rd, according to new data obtained from Waka Kotahi NZTA under the Official Information Act.

Waka Kotahi said too many people are being hurt and killed on the road and the agency has signalled its intention to take steps to reverse the current toll.

These include lowering the road’s speed limit to 60kmh, and such physical safety improvements as widening centrelines, improving signage, and upgrading and adding safety barriers at high-risk locations.

There were 188 crashes on the hill from 2018 to 2022, the data reveals.

Poor handling – the most common factor – contributed to 73 crashes [39 per cent], while inappropriate speed – the second most common – contributed to 58 crashes [31 per cent].

The next most common factor was road conditions, which could include rain or ice, potholes, obstructions or limited visibility, and contributed to 57 crashes [30 per cent].

Poor judgement was a factor in 32 crashes [17 per cent].

Overall, various driver errors were involved in most crashes, including poor handling, poor judgement, incorrect lanes, and poor observation.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said decreasing speed will reduce the number of crashes caused by driver error.

“If people are driving slower, they’ll be better able to negotiate all the corners on the road.

“If you’re going at an appropriate speed for your ability and the conditions, you’re less likely to crash due to poor handling or judgement because I bet my bottom dollar that speed is a big factor behind loss of control,” Pauling said.

He said that many drivers overestimate their abilities and that lowering their speed would reduce crashes, whether or not the driver was at fault.

However, high-profile former professional motorcycle racer and local driving instructor Aaron Slight disagrees, saying some drivers will continue to crash, despite the reduced speed limit.

“Driver training is the only thing that can stop crashes on the hill – no matter what Waka Kotahi sets as the speed limit.

“People will still crash if they don’t take corners at the appropriate speed for their abilities,” he said.

Waka Kotahi senior road safety manager Fabian Marsh said speed was almost always a factor in a crash, regardless of the cause.

He also acknowledged the calls for Waka Kotahi to increase emphasis on driver training to reduce the number of crashes on New Zealand roads.

“We can all be better in our driving, but caution is needed when considering these interventions as international research indicates they can increase risk.

“Essentially, driver and rider education and training increase a driver’s confidence level and may lead to more risk-taking,” Marsh said.

Building safer roads and reducing speed limits where needed will. help reduce risk and give drivers and passengers a better chance of surviving crashes without serious injury, he said.

Of the 188 crashes on Remutaka Hill Rd, 122 did not result in any injuries, 47 resulted in minor injuries, 14 resulted in serious injuries, and five resulted in deaths.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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