The number of drivers speeding through Western Bay of Plenty roadworks sites is on the rise, prompting fears for the safety of contractors, who have pleaded for police to do something. From next week, they will. Reporter Kiri Gillespie speaks with top traffic cop Wayne Hunter about why police will be targeting drivers who fail to slow down through roadworks sites and union boss Jared Abbott how significant the issue is for men and women just trying to do their jobs.
A spate of near-misses involving roadworkers and speeding drivers has prompted swift action from police, who are now targeting drivers failing to slow down through 30km/h zones.
The issue has become so prevalent in the Western Bay of Plenty, roadworking contractors have pleaded for help from the police to keep staff safe.
Acting head of Western Bay of Plenty road policing Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter said there had been a number of near-misses.
Pāpāmoa's Domain Rd site was one of the worst for people failing to slow down, he said.
On Thursday, Hunter recorded an average speed of 43km/h in the current 30km/h zone on Domain Rd. As Hunter, in uniform, attempted to wave at oncoming traffic to slow down, he was ignored by drivers who continued to speed through.
"They probably thought I was a roadworker," he said.
"Obviously they don't believe they need to slow down going through roadworks but [the speed limit] is there for the safety of roadworkers, plus people trying to cross the road. People's thought processes seem to be that it doesn't really matter. But it does."
Hunter said police would be actively patrolling roadwork sites around the Western Bay of Plenty. Gloucester St, Domain Rd and Welcome Bay Rd's stop/go patch were key areas of concern.
First Union transport, logistics and manufacturing secretary Jared Abbott said people not slowing down at roadworks was "a serious concern".
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"We've had a number of people in the industry in fatalities over the past couple of years. People just don't appear to observe the road signs."
On February 26, Higgins workers Haki Hiha, David Eparaima and Dudley Soul Raroa were killed when a truck veered off State Highway 2 at 90km/h.
Abbott said it was "a common thing" for people to speed through roadworks areas and guessed it was because people just ignored the signs or were distracted by cellphones or other things.
Speeders had become such an issue, some roadworkers had begun using their phones to film drivers in an effort to shame them into slowing down, Abbott said.
He felt setting up speed cameras or having a visible police presence would make a difference.
However, setting up 30km/h zones in areas where there was not active work happening perhaps contributed to the culture of drivers not slowing down, Abbott said.
Last week, Tauranga City Council warned traffic speeds had become increasingly dangerous through the 30km/h zone in the city centre and the council could use CCTV to prosecute drivers.
A driver, who would not be named, said he used Welcome Bay Rd regularly and the current stop/go works near Te Puke Highway was infuriating as the sequence did not allow much time for cars to go. He said he could see why people would speed through this area.
In July, the NZ Transport Agency appealed for drivers to slow down while travelling through the 50km/h zone at the Baypark to Bayfair project after a spate of crashes.
CPB Contractors project manager Stephen Wright said at the time its team of 80 workers had a right to a safe workplace "and drivers need to play their part in providing it".
The NZTA's Ross I'Anson said the speed limit was there for a reason and "we want all motorists and workers to get home to their loved ones".
A Higgins representative said they were unable to comment.
What are the fines for speeding?
• Speeding fines increase progressively from $30 for speeds less than 10km/h over the limit, to a maximum fine of $630 for speeds up to 50km/h over the limit.
• At more than 40km/h above the speed limit you could also get a 28-day licence suspension.
• At more than 50km/h over the limit you could be charged with careless, dangerous or reckless driving.
• The amount of your infringement fine will depend on how far over the speed limit you are going.
• In addition to a fine, speeders will incur demerit points.
Source - NZ Police