Tamahere residents near a notorious crash zone want action following another serious accident.
A man was left fighting for his life, and a pregnant woman was seriously injured when their two cars collided at the intersection of Cherry Lane and State Highway 1 at Tamahere, just before 5am Thursday.
Almost every Cherry Lane resident spoken to by the Waikato Times said they had known people – or had family members – involved in crashes at the notorious intersection over the years.
Residents have been calling for measures to make the intersection safer, including lowering the SH1 speed limit to 80km/hour, for years.
Traffic volumes are only increasing, Ray Pryor told the Waikato Times. Ray’s wife was involved in a crash at the intersection just six months ago.
“There is no island there, your only safety is painted lines on the road and what sort of protection does that offer,” he said.
While Thursday’s crash involved a vehicle turning left towards Cambridge, many residents believed the more dangerous scenario was when vehicles attempted to turn right towards Hamilton.
“It becomes a game of roulette,” said resident Trevor Brown. “You literally have to take your chances and it should not be like that on a national road.”
Mr Brown passed the crash scene as he left for work about 7.30am. “One of the cars was completely decimated,” he said. “You look at it and wonder how anyone could walk away alive – it was carnage.”
Relatives of the Browns were involved in a crash at the intersection about four years ago.
“And the sad thing is – this won’t be the last time you write about this sort of thing,” Mr Brown said.
“We’ve got young people living in Cherry Lane heading to university and the retirement home – many of them take their time getting across the intersection and they are truly putting themselves in the hands of the gods.”
Cherry Lane man Simon Ashworth believes taking out the passing lanes just north of Cherry Lane and restricting speed to 80kmh until the four laning starts just south of the road, would reduce risk and save lives.
He said there had been at least six crashes in the last 18 months.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
“Passing lanes encourage speed and with the volume of traffic these days it’s only getting worse.”
But NZTA said the safety situation would improve after the Hamiton section of the Waikato expressway was completed in 2019/20.
Waikato state highways manager, Kaye Clark, said the project would see a new interchange built that would separate traffic from Cherry Lane and Bollard Rd from through traffic, travelling at open highway speeds, along State Highway 1.
“The interchange will allow this local traffic to safely join traffic heading north into Hamilton.”
In Thursday’s accident, Police district accident prevention manager, Inspector Rob Lindsay, said an Audi hatchback car turned left on to State Highway 1, heading south towards Cambridge, and was in a collision with an oncoming car.
“The crash is still under investigation but it appears that as the Audi turned on to State Highway 1 it was struck head on by a silver Toyota Corona travelling north in the southbound lane.”
The driver of the Toyota was taken to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition while two people in the Audi were also taken to hospital.
Mr Lindsay said emergency services were concerned for a pregnant woman in the Audi and the wellbeing of her unborn child.
State Highway 1 was closed for about four hours but reopened about 9am.