Every time Oakleigh residents Alan and Denise Wilson hear sirens and emergency vehicles hurtling along Northland's deadliest stretch of state highway, they fear the worst.
The couple are among Northlanders, including local government officials, pushing for a four-lane highway from just south of Whangārei at Toetoe Rd to the roundabout with Port Marsden Highway near Ruakākā in a bid to stop the road carnage.
The Wilsons' latest call comes as that stretch of highway claimed another life on Wednesday evening, pushing Northland's road death toll so far this year to four. In 2018, 35 people died on Northland's roads.
Preliminary investigations revealed a southbound car driven by a 32-year-old female from Auckland appeared to have crossed the centre line and collided head-on with a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.
The crash also involved a third vehicle and happened at the intersection of SH1 and Prescott Rd about 7.20pm on Wednesday.
The Aucklander was the sole occupant in the southbound car and died at the scene. She was not wearing a seat belt.
An elderly overseas tourist who suffered a broken ankle and another person with minor injuries were taken to the Whangārei Hospital.
Diversions were in place along Springfield, Ormiston and Mountfield roads for light vehicles while heavy vehicles were diverted through SH12 and 14.
The road was re-opened about 11pm.Denise Wilson, whose house on Totara Rd overlooks SH1 in Oakleigh, said a four-lane highway would be ideal as traffic volume in the past 12 years on that stretch has tripled.
Heading south, she said, turning into Totara Rd was impossible due to the double lane and a blind corner on the approach to that intersection.
In November 2015, an English tourist died after his rental car collided with a southbound vehicle near that intersection.
Since 2008, 19 people have died on SH1 between Whangārei and the Ruakākā roundabout and more than 40 have been seriously injured. It has had more fatalities per kilometre — 0.74 — than any other sections of the highway.
"Every time we hear the sirens and we hear them a lot, we fear a crash has happened somewhere along this stretch of road. Accidents wait to happen here all the time," Denise Wilson said.
"I think the road is just not good enough for the amount of traffic that goes through. In the morning, we play a game on the way to Otaika Valley School and count the number of trucks heading south and there are at least 30 of them," Alan Wilson said.
In April last year, Transport Minister Phil Twyford told Northland mayors at a meeting at his office he could not promise to improve the highway to four lanes with a median barrier.
Instead, a new two-lane highway would be built alongside it and the New Zealand Transport Agency has also announced a plan to improve safety and resilience in the short and medium term as well as planning for future population growth.
Inspector Wayne Ewers of the Northland road policing team reiterated the importance of wearing seat belts, even if people drove a short distance.