Seasonal warning after lucky escape

By Kristin Edge

A two-vehicle crash south of Whangarei that closed State Highway 1 has prompted a police warning for motorists to take care as the traditional "black months" on the roads approach.

Northland's 2012 road toll so far stands at 10 - three more than 2011's record low of seven. But traditionally the next few months see more crashes and fatalities with the increase of summer traffic. Yesterday, two cars collided near Otaika, just south of Whangarei, about 7am blocking SH1.

Police Highway Patrol Sergeant Chris Goodall said it was lucky no one died in the crash and great teamwork between the emergency services ensured a driver trapped in one of the vehicles was cut free quickly.

While police were still piecing together exactly what happened they said a white southbound Toyota station wagon collided with an on-coming Mercedes Benz. The drivers were the only people in each of the vehicles and the station wagon rolled and ended up upside down in a water table, trapping the 18-year-old driver.

"The fire service and paramedics did a fantastic job while police diverted the traffic ... it was very impressive," Mr Goodall said.

"The impact was such that it was remarkable no one was seriously injured or killed."

A firefighter crawled into the vehicle with the trapped man and ensured he would not move when the vehicle was winched out of the drain back on the road.

Whangarei firefighter Senior Station Officer Paul Ballantine said paramedics assessed the driver and stabilised him before the car was righted and cutting equipment was used to remove the doors and the roof.

He was taken to Whangarei Hospital with moderate head and leg injuries. The other driver did not need further treatment.

Mr Goodall said: "In the lead up to Christmas there is traditionally more traffic and with more traffic on the roads there are more crashes. I urge people to take care."

Northbound traffic was diverted through Otaika Valley Rd. One regular commuter from Waipu said she followed Cemetery Rd, which was congested with traffic.

It took her two hours to reach Whangarei compared to her normal 30 minute trip.

- Northern Advocate

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