Yesterday one of Hawke’s Bay’s most notorious intersections – the junction of State Highway 2B and Meeanee Quay in Westshore – claimed another life.
This intersection is in the top five for serious and fatal crashes in New Zealand. That is not a chart we want to feature on.
It is the latest in a number of fatalities, several serious crashes and countless fender-benders and near-misses that this intersection has been the site of since its creation.
It seems rather illogical that this intersection should be the location of so much carnage, as the site is a large, open space with clear visibility for hundreds of meters in several directions.
Drivers being unable to judge the speed of oncoming traffic were identified as a key factor in a number of crashes, so a stretch of around a kilometre, including this intersection and the entrance to Hawke’s Bay Airport (also a black spot) was reduced from 100kph to 80kph.
Yet the accidents keep happening.
Plastic delineators were also installed along the stretch of road with the intention of marking out lanes, but they have merely added confusion for some and certainly give little physical protection from the traffic rushing past
There have long been calls from the public for the intersection to be replaced with a roundabout that would both slow traffic and ease the confluence of these busy roads.
Other publically proposed plans included closing off the current entrance to the Hawke’s Bay Airport 500 meters from the Meeanee Quay intersection, upgrading Watchman Road, which also joins onto SH2B at this point and redirecting the airport traffic through this proposed roundabout and along Watchman Road.
It appears that common sense has finally sunken in and NZTA – the New Zealand Transport Agency is planning to build a roundabout at this intersection, which will also include a new access point for the airport, in 2016-2017.
I have been told negotiations for the purchase of or access to the required land is currently underway.
In today’s Hawke’s Bay Today Mark Story pointed the finger at human error, rather than the intersection itself, being at fault – and he’s absolutely right!
Human error is to blame for the number of accidents on this intersection – but on more levels than Mark suggests:
It’s human error that misjudges the speed or distance of oncoming traffic.
It’s human error that stops impatient drivers from waiting 10-30 seconds for a clear break in the traffic.
It’s human error that causes indicators, brake pedals, accelerators and road rules to be used improperly, or completely ignored going through such intersections.
But when the human errors of individual drivers like those listed above just can’t be altered and the number of accidents, injuries and deaths at intersections like State Highway 2B and Meeanee Quay start to mount, it’s the human error of authorities overseeing such intersections and the safety of those who use them not taking drastic action sooner that must be brought into question and accounted for.
This junction is a known accident black spot and has been so for years. In its current state it continues to injure, maim and kill.
So why wait?
How did the unnecessary four-laning of Prebensen Drive get priority over properly fixing this fatally flawed black-spot once and for all?
With lives at stake and so many already tragically effected, what took them so long?
Hawke’s Bay road users deserved better!