Increasing traffic volume on SH2 between Katikati and Tauranga has been linked to rising road crashes.

Eighteen people died over a three-year period on SH2 from 2012 to 2016 and 35 were seriously injured. The 2017 statistics were not available, but three weeks into 2018 there has already been one fatality.

Western Bay Road Policing co-ordinator Acting Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter says it is not the road, but the drivers.

"The problem is that now there are a lot more vehicles on the road. If you make a mistake, the odds are much higher you will hit an oncoming vehicle.


"The same with the rural roads coming off the highway. If you misjudge, the odds are now higher you will hit an oncoming vehicle.

"If it was four-laned then it would be like the Tauranga Eastern Link. It's driver mistakes, distraction and even fatigue that is the issue."

Surprisingly fatigue features a lot in our highway crashes, Hunter says.

"I put it down to drivers nearly home, after say driving from Auckland, so they relax and their concentration on their driving is not as good as it would normally be and mistakes are made."

Katikati Police Sergeant Steve Hindmarsh says this is a dangerous piece of highway if drivers did not drive to the conditions.

"I see part of the problem being that because there has suddenly been a large increase of traffic over recent years — the more road users, the more crashes that will occur."

Most of the time crashes are caused by driver error, whether it be driving too fast for the conditions, inattention, fatigue, drink driving or poor decision making, particularly when it involves overtaking or pulling out from intersections on to the highway, Hindmarsh said.

"That stretch of highway is unforgiving to those who make mistakes. It's not a flat, straight piece of highway with a lot of overtaking opportunities. If a driver makes a mistake or poor decision then chances are, considering heavy traffic volumes, they will collide with another vehicle.


"If it were a deserted piece of South Island highway then chances are high they wouldn't cash into another vehicle if they made the same type of mistake.

"Overtaking or speeding generally won't get you any further ahead in your journey."

Katikati Community Board member, firefighter and driver Brendan Gibbs said roads were only as dangerous as a motorist made them.

"By that I mean we need to be fully aware of things like speed, weather, road conditions — the sheer volume of traffic is such that you cannot ever make a mistake.

"I find that people either drive to fast for the conditions or they drive too slow at times, causing people to take unnecessary risks."

He believed the road did need upgrading to cope with the volume of traffic.

"There are areas where there definitely needs to be more passing lanes. If you are heading from Waihi to Tauranga the first passing lane is around 30-35km away. Following trucks and slower vehicles can cause frustration when patience is needed. Coming from Tauranga isn't much better."

There are areas where safety improvements could be made, where the camber of the road isn't the best and certainly a four-lane road is needed to take away the sheer volume of traffic, he said.

Hindmarsh agreed.

"Ideally if money was not an issue the roads would be straightened to eliminate any bends.

"There would be more passing lanes or four-lane stretches so people wouldn't pass in stupid places and there would be more median barriers so when people fell asleep at the wheel they wouldn't cross into the path of poor motorists coming the other way.

"There would be turning bays into all side roads to give safety to right hand turning vehicles. The highway can be made safer to eliminate fatalities by motorists who make mistakes — being reckless or not — when driving."