Stop/go operators are a common sight on state highways over summer, at emergency or planned road maintenance sites.

They are there all day, in all weather, in their hi-viz gear, armed only with a sign, a walkie talkie and a smile.

And while it might not look like a dangerous job, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Northland system manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult says it can be.

"Just before Christmas we had two incidents where stop/go operators reported near misses, where they were nearly hit by vehicles passing too close or speeding through the work site," she said.


"This is unacceptable driving behaviour, because it puts everyone at risk, not just the stop/go operator, who is the first person motorists encounter as they approach a work site, but other crew members and road users as well.

"These are mothers, fathers, brother and sisters, just doing a job. They go to work each day expecting to be able to go home safely at the end of the day. Safety is our highest priority, but we can't keep our people safe if other people selfishly show no regard for their wellbeing.

"A few road cones and a stop/go sign are no protection from a speeding vehicle. Please slow down, and keep to the temporary speed limit."

Abusive motorists were another occupational hazard.

"In a recent incident, a man got out of his vehicle and was shouting and waving his arms around like he wanted to start a fight. That was very scary for our operator, who was on her own at the time," Ms Hori-Hoult said, adding that all such incidents were reported to the police.

The point of a stop/go operation, she said, was to try to keep traffic moving in both directions when a highway was reduced to one lane. Every effort was made to keep delays to a minimum, but sometimes traffic built up.

"The summer months are our busiest time of year for road resurfacing and repairs, as we try to take advantage of the dry conditions and long sunny days. This work is essential for the safety and resilience of the state highway network, so we ask motorists to be patient and understanding.

"If you are stopped by a stop/go operator, use the time to pause and relax, have a stretch or wind down the windows to get some fresh air. You will soon be on your way again."