The first fatal crash on State Highway 1, between Puhoi and Warkworth this year, was a harrowing reminder to drivers to be careful on the roads over summer.
The incident occurred on October 12 when a truck and two cars collided just south of Mahurangi West Road.
Shem Faith Pikaahu, 34, of Kaitaia, died in the accident and three others were hospitalised with serious injuries.
There have been 24 serious injuries and nine deaths on the same stretch of road, in the last five years, three times as many fatalities as the Dome Valley over the same period.
Acting road policing manager for Waitemata John Bleackley says this area is a big concern to road police and becomes particularly problematic during holiday times.
“We patrol that stretch of road heavily so our team gets really upset when accidents do occur there,” Snr Sgt Bleackley says.
“During summer, the traffic builds up so people are going slower, but this also causes frustration and leads people to make irrational decisions.”
Despite the Dome Valley being set for a $35 million safety upgrade, the stretch from Puhoi to
Warkworth will have no upgrades as the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, due to open in 2021, is expected to alleviate the problem.
However, the New Zealand Transport Agency is considering reducing the speed limit to bolster safety.
“Speed is the biggest factor in determining the result of an accident. I support limit reductions on our roads,” Snr Sgt Bleackley says.
Transport planner Bevan Woodward is a long-time advocate for a limit of 80km/h on that part of SH1 and hopes a reduction will come into effect soon.
“Given its history with crashes and deaths, that piece of road is well overdue for a speed limit change,” Bevan says.
“You only have to look at the positive effect a speed reduction had in the Dome Valley to know this is a good idea.
“It will not only reduce the tragedy caused by accidents, but also prevent road closures that cause huge problems for commuters.”
Snr Sgt Bleackley says to keep safe this summer drivers should consider their own fitness to drive and their vehicle load.
“Fatigue is responsible for 20 per cent of all deaths on the road and impairment through substance use also takes a high toll.
“When towing, make sure trailers are secure and you stick to the 90km/h speed limit.”
He also recommends that motorcyclists do the Ride Forever programme. Motorcyclists are involved in two per cent of accidents, but account for 20 per cent of road deaths.