Kiri is a digital journalist for bayofplentytimes.co.nz.

Shock as woman drives wrong way

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DANGER: An elderly woman was snapped after driving the wrong way on the Tauranga Eastern Link.PHOTO/FILE
DANGER: An elderly woman was snapped after driving the wrong way on the Tauranga Eastern Link.PHOTO/FILE

An elderly woman snapped driving into oncoming traffic on the Tauranga Eastern Link is believed to have driven for about 10km before stopping and getting out.

The driver was photographed by Ben Vidulich, who was travelling on the highway towards on Papamoa on Wednesday.

"The car was driving towards us as we approached and then as we passed (at this point our vehicle and the truck in front of us were hugging the left white line of the left lane), the driver pulled over towards the central barrier and stopped," he said.

"After we had passed we could see the driver getting out of their vehicle, which was even more concerning."

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Mr Vidulich said the driver appeared to be an elderly lady.

Mr Vidulich and his passenger, who took the photo, had not long passed under the toll gantry near the Paengaroa end of the highway.

Sergeant Trinity Milham said she was aware of people who had driven up to the toll gantry before doing a U-turn after seeing the big signs saying they need to pay.

Tauranga Eastern Link opened in August last year and by November police had received 12 reports of people travelling the wrong way on the highway.

Since then, the number of incidents police were aware of had dropped, Ms Milham said.

"It's a significant reduction in the amount of reports that we get. I think there's probably many reasons for that," she said.

"There's been significant changes on the Tauranga Eastern Link since it's opened to reduce the number of wrong way drivers."

NZ Transport Agency said in November it was concerned at the spate of motorists driving on the wrong side of the road and made many changes in response. Large red signs displaying "wrong way" were introduced at each end of the appropriate lane and existing signs were lowered to be more obvious in people's line of sight.

Road markings were also added and traffic lights at Sandhurst Drive had been modified with green arrows to make it clearer to motorists which way they should turn to access the highway.

Ms Milham said police were not aware of this latest incident.

"We want to know about all of these incidents. If people can call the *555 number, that would be a big help."

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Acting Bay of Plenty highways manager Chris Young said despite an increase of 35 per cent of people using the highway, with about 8700 vehicles on it each day, it had noticed a drop in incidents.

Other changes that would be made on the highway this year included installing a gantry sign, which would span the four lanes at the Domain Rd interchange, and indicate clearly the exit to take for Papamoa and Te Puke.

"At the Paengaroa roundabout we plan to lower the centre of the roundabout, moving some of the earth and vegetation so people can see right across the intersection to make people more aware they are approaching a roundabout," Mr Young said.

"While we are making extra changes to further reduce the risk of someone making a mistake and driving the wrong way on the TEL it is important to remember it is up to all of us to share the responsibility for road safety and play our part in making the transport system as safe as possible.

"Human error does occur from time to time, but the last thing we want is for a simple mistake to turn into a tragedy."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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