Allison is a digital reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times

Bay of Plenty: A region of bad roads or bad drivers?

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Kevin Brooks, a driving instructor in Tauranga, says people don't communicate and aren't aware of others on the road. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
Kevin Brooks, a driving instructor in Tauranga, says people don't communicate and aren't aware of others on the road. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

A debate has flared up about whether the Bay of Plenty is a region with bad roads or bad drivers after a survey found residents believe their roads are unsafe.

The Ministry of Transport survey revealed Bay residents were most likely to describe the design and standard of the roads they normally used as unsafe.

However, many people spoken to by the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend agreed that while Tauranga roads could be improved, they believed lazy driving to be the real issue on our roads.

Kevin Brooks, a driving instructor since 1998, said his opinion was Tauranga roads were generally pretty good.

"I think people are quick to blame the roads but it's not usually the road that is the problem - it's the driver."

He thought the sheer volume of traffic had outpaced the roading infrastructure but drivers had also become lazy.

"People drive too fast and too close and they don't plan lane changes. Mirrors and indicators have just become optional extras," Mr Brooks said.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges agreed some roads were not as safe as they could or should be.

"That's born out by the statistics - too many people have died or been badly hurt on main roads in the Bay of Plenty."

But he said the government was stepping up and the Bay had received the biggest investment per capita in improving its roads.

Mr Bridges said at the beginning of the year $115 million was earmarked for the Bay out of $600m worth of investments for safer roads nationwide.

"On top of this are significant projects like the Maungatapu Underpass, Bayfair to Baypark and State Highway 2 from Tauranga through to Waihi where there's another half a billion worth of upgrades."

The $115m of investment would go to specific safety improvements like median barriers, widening roads, rumble strips, side barriers and additional signage.

"The goverment is stepping up in the area where it can make the most difference . . . but ultimately we can't get in the driver's seat for people," Mr Bridges said.

He said New Zealand drivers were still doing basic, stupid and preventable things on the roads like driving without seatbelts, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving too fast for the conditions and driving fatigued.

Tauranga City Council transport manager Martin Parkes said residential and commercial growth had seen an increase in traffic on key routes.

"People tend to perceive heavy traffic and congestion to be safety issues, but that doesn't necessarity mean those areas actually pose the greatest safety risks."

He said on an urban network, high severity crashes often involved pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

"The number of fatal crashes on the TCC urban road network has shown a progressive reduction over the past 15 years," he said, thanks to a combination of engineering, education and enforcement by TravelSafe, NZTA, and police.

The Bay of Plenty Times put a call out on social media, asking Tauranga residents if they thought their roads were unsafe.

An overwhelming response was received, with hundreds of road users posting comments.

GREAT DEBATE:

Christine Henry The roads are safe but a lot of the drivers drive way too fast, especially on SH2. I have seen many silly lane changes between Bethlehem and Mt Maunganui everyday just to get ahead by one car length, also people don't appear to merge like a zip.

Julie Anne Lots of the roundabouts and intersections do not seem designed in the most simple way ... think they can be confusing if you don't drive them often. Lots of bad drivers too mind you!!

Jody Lozell Norton I think they are pretty safe but drivers are just not taking driving a car as seriously as they should ... so many on phones it's scary!!! Changing lanes without indicating I see all the time too.

Erica Whalen I think the roads are safe. It's the muppets using the roads that makes them unsafe.

James O'Brien How about the Maungatapu to Mount highway! Loads of deaths there and i'm not surprised. The entire highway basically has no lighting. It's disgraceful. Visibility is terrible.

Marty Stewart They are not safe they are not functioning properly and the drivers don't know how to use the paint lines on the road. We need to improve the layouts to better include buses and bikes. And get rid of nasty potholes.

Miki Brown Welcome Bay roundabout with lights is an inconvenient joke. Unsafe for any new drivers to the region.

George Kenny Knights I drive from near Katikati to Tauranga every day and it's only the drivers that are the problem (for me anyway). Drivers are either too slow which makes others impatient, or too fast because they've been held up and are trying to rush. If everyone did the correct speed limit the whole time there wouldn't be a problem.

Carl Bergersen I think most roads are safe but comes down to the drivers. I think in one way if they opened the roads up they would be safer just as people aren't as in a hurry due to traffic jams etc. Poor decision-making from drivers is what I think makes them dangerous.

Mel Ogier Driving here now is terrible! I have seen a lot of near crashes on a daily basis. It's ridiculous. Roads are so much busier now and the drivers are crazy. And the sooner they do something about the Bayfair roundabout the better - that has become the biggest danger zone that I have noticed.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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