Although safety has improved considerably on several Northland state highways over the past five years RoadSafe Northland co-ordinator Gillian Archer urges motorists to remain vigilant.
KiwiRAP highway risk ratings show that Transport Agency safety improvements such as signage upgrades, an extension of roadside barriers, improved lighting and sealed shoulder widening have reduced the combined length of high-risk and medium-high-risk state highways (in terms of total fatal and serious injury crashes) in Auckland and Northland by 18 per cent from 475km to 388km.
New collective and personal risk-ratings compare 2007 to 2011 crash rates with those from the previous five years. Collective risk ratings are based on the total number of fatal and serious injury crashes over a section of highway, known as crash density. Personal risk ratings are based on the number of fatal and serious injury crashes per kilometre driven over the same section of road, measuring the relative risk to an individual driver of being in a crash. The risk bands are categorised as high, medium-high, medium, low-medium and low risk.
Ms Archer said it was exciting to see some improvements, but safety was not all about engineering and motorists needed to watch their speed, wear seatbelts, be patient and, most importantly, not drink and drive. As a frequent traveller on State Highway 14 between Whangarei and Dargaville, she noted how it had become a high personal risk road and she said that most crashes involved locals.
"Many commuters use this road and I see them flying along," Ms Archer said. "Familiarity breeds contempt and the regular users of this road need to be aware its personal risk rating is now high and not get complacent." KiwiRAP covered only state highways and motorists needed to be aware of challenging district roads.She praised police work keeping the roads safe, but pointed out that officers "can't be everywhere all the time".