Slower limit planned for deadly highway

By Natalie Akoorie

The proposed speed limit changes to SH2. Photo / Herald Graphic
The proposed speed limit changes to SH2. Photo / Herald Graphic

A highway that has claimed 36 lives in the past decade may have its speed limit lowered.

The Waikato's blackest stretch of road, State Highway 2 from the end of Auckland's Southern Motorway through Maramarua to the Thames turnoff near Mangatarata, has had 29 fatal crashes since 2001.

In those accidents another 22 people were badly injured, and a further 36 smashes resulted in serious injury to 44 people.

Now the Transport Agency is proposing to lower the speed limit to 80km/h, a move the Fire Service, police and residents have wanted for years.

Sam Clark, who lives on SH2 at Maramarua, saw three accidents outside or near her home during one day in January this year.

In one of those, 2-year-old Samuel Tonkin was fatally injured and Mrs Clark said the crashes took their toll.

"That day was a horrible day. I had visitors from down the line and they asked how we could cope with this."

She said motorists drove too fast for the conditions and she worried daily about her 17-year-old daughter, who drove to Ngatea for school.

Mrs Clark, who has lived in the area for 10 years, welcomed a reduction in the speed limit.

"I think that would just be the best thing ever."

Mangatangi Fire Service chief fire office Don Shanks said lowering the limit would be good, but he was still hoping for an upgrade to the highway.

Mr Shanks, who has been in the fire service for 39 years, said the brigade had attended 89 fatal accidents at Maramarua over that period.

One that stood out in his mind was the deaths of a family - two parents and two children.

He said he had received counselling to help with the stress and he hoped a reduced limit would help prevent deaths.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said the proposal was a great idea.

"State Highway 2 has been a real blackspot on our district," he said.

"For many years I've argued that the 100km/h limit on State Highway 2 is too fast for that particular environment."

Mr Tooman said lowering the speed limit for 32km of the highway, excluding the new 6.2km deviation from Mangatawhiri Bridge to Golf Rd, would send a message to motorists that it was not a normal state highway.

The Transport Agency's Hamilton state highways manager, Kaye Clark, said lowering the speed limit was the most cost-effective way to cut the road toll.

Realigning the highway was not an option at the moment.

The lower speed limit would mean an extra two minutes for a journey even during peak times. "Two minutes isn't much to pay to save a few lives."

HIGHWAY TOLL

* 29 fatal crashes on SH2 since 2001

* 22 people were badly injured in those accidents

* 36 other smashes resulted in serious injury to 44

* 80 km/h speed limit has been proposed by Transport Agency

- NZ Herald

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