Amy is the head of news for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Sunstrike danger worst in Bay

A crash in the lower Kaimais, which claimed the life of a mother of two, has sparked research showing the Western Bay has one of the worst sunstrike crash rates in the country.

Lisa Boston, 42, died on June 21 after she pulled out of Ruahihi Rd on to State Highway 29 in front of a logging truck, which was heading toward Putaruru.

The driver of the logging truck involved reportedly saw the victim shade her eyes before she pulled out in front of him.

Western Bay of Plenty road policing manager Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said the cause of the crash had not been determined but it was likely sunstrike was a factor.

Automobile Association Bay of Plenty District chairman Barry Benton said the crash prompted him to look into how much of a problem sunstrike was in the area.

"It was just a tragedy and it didn't need to happen," he said.

New Zealand Transport Agency data showed there were 158 crashes in the Bay of Plenty in which sunstrike was a factor between 2008 and 2012 higher than Auckland, the Waikato, Wellington or Canterbury on a per capita basis.

The Bay crashes resulted in one death, 12 serious injuries and 49 minor injuries to people.

Tauranga and Mount Maunganui had the most crashes in the region, with 70 between 2008 and 2012. The crashes were spread throughout the area but Girven Rd, Hewletts Rd and Papamoa Beach Rd were noted as black spots.

There were 42 crashes in Rotorua and nine crashes in Whakatane and Ohope.

"We're having about 30 sunstrike crashes each year in the Bay of Plenty," Mr Benton said.

Niwa figures from 2012 showed Tauranga and Whakatane had on average 2250 hours of sunshine, more than anywhere else in the wider Bay of Plenty.

The bulk of the crashes happened between May and September.

"The AA would like to see authorities putting up some warning signs in high-risk areas and running some campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue," he said.

Tauranga City Council transport operations manager Martin Parkes said he often fielded complaints from people about sunstrike.

Mr Parkes said an awareness campaign to encourage drivers to be wary could help.

Andrew Garner, spokesman for Mrs Boston's family at the time of her death and a Domett Truck and Trailer sales representative, agreed it was down to driver awareness.

"It is bad but it's a factor of driving. I'm on the road 60-70,000kms a year. It's just part of it," he said. "At the time Lisa had her accident it was not a good time of day with the angle of the sun and the road."

There were many areas where sunstrike was a problem including areas in the Kaimai Range and around Katikati.

"I've had times coming out of Snodgrass Rd in the afternoon that you can't see a thing."

Mr Campion said sunstrike was a problem everywhere. "We do have a few crashes related to sunstrike. When a crash occurs it's because they haven't adjusted their driving or pulled over and stopped," he said. "You really need to alter your driving accordingly. Sunstrike doesn't just hit you like that in an instant. You can see the sun is causing a problem and distracting you and you need to adjust your driving before it gets to that point."

Fastway Couriers regional sales manager Rob Moore said sunstrike was a major hazard and a constant problem for drivers.

"We have a guy who gets up early in the morning for the Waihi run and he said it's real bad. Another guy does Omokoroa first thing in the morning and the main highway, (it's) definitely bad on that main highway, and going into Omokoroa."

Mount Maunganui's industrial area was also a problem area.

"You go to pull out, then all of a sudden there's a truck there. It's definitely a hazard and we are all aware of it."

AA tips for drivers to minimise sun-strike risks

  • Anticipate when it may happen and use your visors or sunglasses (polarised sunglasses are also much more effective at combating sunstrike).

  • Drive with your headlights on so your vehicle is easier to see.

  • Keep your windscreen clean inside and out.

  • If you are hit by sun-strike, slow down and be extra cautious in your driving.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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