Police have fined a woman for texting and driving and not wearing a seatbelt after she rammed into the back of a ute, causing her car to fill with smoke.
She had to be pulled from the car by two bystanders, Marshall Paul and Andrew Gibbs, who were afraid the car could catch fire or blow up.
Her rescuers say Te Ngae Rd's "snail pace" traffic is getting more dangerous and the time it takes to travel into Rotorua's CBD in the mornings means the city is getting like Auckland.
The 26-year-old woman drove into the back of a stationary ute, which was at the end of a long line of traffic, on Te Ngae Rd near the intersection with Wharenui Rd about 8.45am yesterday.
Mr Paul and Mr Gibbs were outside Tesha's mobile coffee cart when they saw the crash.
The men said the horn was going in the car and the woman was motionless, so adrenalin kicked in and they ran over to help her.
Mr Paul said the car was filling up with smoke and although mindful they shouldn't move the woman, they made the call to get her out.
"I checked her heart rate and then yelled at her that I am going to pull her out," Mr Paul said.
"You could smell the smoke [and knew] that it was wires burning and my thought was it is either going to blow up or keep burning. There was also a risk someone else was going to smack up the rear of her car."
Mr Paul pulled the woman out, carried her across the road and put her into the back of another car.
The woman started to wake and a member of the public, a former nurse, stopped to help until St John arrived.
The woman was taken to Rotorua Hospital in a moderate condition.
Mr Gibbs said adrenalin started pumping straight away.
"There was quite a bit of liquid leaking out underneath the car so we didn't want to take any chances."
Mr Gibbs called 111 then helped slow traffic until police arrived.
Mr Paul said every day he saw traffic backed up along Te Ngae Rd from his coffee cart. He said in his view part of the problem was the pedestrian-only traffic lights, which allowed only one pedestrian to stop all traffic.
"Sometimes the traffic can be backed up all the way to McDonald's [at Hannah's Bay]."
He said that in Auckland those pedestrian crossings were limited to the number of times they could stop traffic, something he said would help to make Te Ngae Rd traffic flow faster.
Mr Gibbs said he lived on Coulter Rd and had to leave at 7.50am each day to get to work by 8.30am.
"It's getting like Auckland rush-hour traffic. If I'm lucky enough to get let in by someone [on to Te Ngae Rd] from Coulter Rd, you travel about 5km/h bumper to bumper all the way to the Tarawera roundabout."
New Zealand Transport Agency Bay of Plenty state highways manager Niclas Johansson said the Tauranga Transport Operations Centre took over the management of Te Ngae Rd signals in October and had since bought new technology that let it co-ordinate, monitor and operate traffic lights remotely.
"This system is used in cities across Australia and New Zealand and will be utilised to improve the efficiency of this route. We have asked the operations centre to look into optimising these signals along Te Ngae Rd," Mr Johannson said.
Last February the Government announced funding of $24 million for Rotorua's transport network, including an upgrade to Te Ngae Rd and the Te Ngae/Tarawera Rds intersections, four-laning a section of Te Ngae Rd, and improved walking and cycling connections. Pedestrian safety will also be considered.
Acting Senior Sergeant Jamie Keenleyside of Rotorua said the woman hurt in yesterday's crash was issued with two instant fines, one for using a cellphone while driving and the other for failing to wear a seatbelt. She was also suspended from driving for three months.
Te Ngae Rd pedestrian crossings
- 3 pedestrian-only traffic lights on Te Ngae Rd, at 2.34km, 3.20km, and 4.03km going north from Sala St intersection
- 1 pedestrian crossing at traffic lights (at Isles Rd)
- 0 standard/zebra pedestrian crossings
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