Flexible safety barriers to help prevent people dying or being seriously injured in a crash and rumble strips to give drivers a wake-up call if they stray across the line are amongst improvements people would like to see on State Highway 1 through Mid-Canterbury.
The NZ Transport Agency has been looking at ways to make a stretch of the highway, from just north of the Selwyn River Bridge to Racecourse Road, north of Ashburton, safer.
Between 2007 and 2016, 13 people were killed and 49 were seriously injured on this stretch of road. Many of these crashes involved drivers running off the road and hitting something like a pole or tree. There have also been head-on crashes on the highway.
Transport Agency System Manager Pete Connors says the team held a series of community events in Ashburton, Rakaia and Dunsandel in December to share their ideas and find out more from people who use the road. They also invited feedback online and by mail.
“We asked people what makes this road feel unsafe and what worries them the most,” he says.
“About 80 people came to speak to us at the events. We also received 113 feedback forms and a number of letters, emails and phone calls. Since then, we’ve continued to have constructive conversations with people in the community and commuters about making the road safer.
“People have told us the high traffic volumes made them feel unsafe and some felt nervous turning onto or off the state highway. They also feel unsafe walking and driving across the highway at Rakaia and Dunsandel, and many were worried about drivers crossing the centre line.”
Three-quarters of people who responded support the installation of flexible safety barriers or wide centre lines to reduce head-on crashes. They also like the idea of more rumble strips and wide sealed shoulders to create room to recover if drivers drift out of their lane or lose control.
Mr Connors says feedback from people who know the road well is really important.
“We use this information alongside our research to make sure that the safety improvements respond to the needs of the community using the road every day,” he says.
The project team will finalise the design of the safety improvements for this road and share them with the community later this year.