Three metal poles bent almost at right angles on the edge of a steep drop on Otago Peninsula tell the story of what appears to be a lucky escape.

The posts on Highcliff Rd were mown down yesterday, a witness said, after the drivers of two cars tried to overtake a camper van on the way to Dunedin.

One car was shunted heavily into the wire rope barrier built this year by the Dunedin City Council.

Amanda Hosking, the mother of a 16-year-old girl whose car was shunted into the barrier, said her daughter was "lucky to be alive".

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"It was a shock to hear what happened because my dad died on Monday," Hosking said. "Amidst everything it was so scary, because it could have been two funerals in one week."

Hosking's daughter, who did not want to be named, was too shaken to discuss the crash. "She thought she was going to die."

The family believed the new wire barriers on the road west of the Centre Rd intersection saved the young driver, who was on her restricted licence.

People have been killed and injured in the past when cars have left the road and gone down the steep bank.

Council transport group manager Richard Saunders said yesterday's outcome was "exactly the reason those sort of safety projects are undertaken".

The barrier is part of $1.6million in work - including slip repair and the more-than 1km long barrier - completed recently.

A farmer who saw the crash said he was following the camper van and two cars.

The man, who asked not to be named, said a car overtook the vehicle behind the camper van but the other car also pulled out to overtake "and smashed it into the guide rails".

The man said the vehicles left, but he spoke to the driver who hit the fence further down the road.

She was upset, and the side of her car was badly scraped.

"It fair bounced into that bloody fence. She would have been gone."

Hosking said it was "heartwarming" the man had spoken to her daughter after the crash.

Saunders said the road was identified as "an area of risk".

People stopped to see the nearby Soldiers Memorial, a lot of tourists used it, and people have driven off the road, he said.

"That pointed to a need for us to review the safety, and wire ropes were deemed to be suitable. Obviously in this instance they've done their job."

He said he would send staff to the site to look at the damage.