Nelson Matters Column 6 Feb 2018
Four serious accidents on the Appleby Highway in the last month is a wake-up call on road safety.
The problem is not just our State Highways. Constituents are contacting me reciting examples of serious crashes and near misses on Lower Queen Street, Richardson Street and many other council roads. Motorists are understandably using alternative routes to avoid highway congestion but this increases the safety risk for local communities.
The national road toll was 843 in 1973 but by 2013 it had reduced to 235. The concern is that is has grown by 50 per cent in the last three years to 380. The regional road toll in Nelson and Marlborough has followed a similar trend dropping to just 5 in 2015 but increasing to 10 in 2016 and 14 this last year.
We need both a short and long term solutions. I want the NZ Transport Agency, Council and Police to specifically review the safety of the Appleby Highway and the black spot intersections. Warning signs, slower speed limits and more road policing need considering. We also need to look at new turning bays and merging lanes.
We also need to be investing in highway upgrades. Our population, visitor numbers and freight volumes are growing strongly. The number of vehicles in Nelson and Tasman has grown from 70,000 in 2000 to over 100,000 and is projected to grow by more than 3000 each year to 2020. The government is reaping the revenue from this growth with over $100 million a year now being taken from Nelson and Tasman households in petrol taxes and road user charges. We need to ensure this is reinvested and not diverted elsewhere.
We know highway investments improve safety. We are getting fewer accidents on those sections recently upgraded like the Ruby Bay and Stoke bypasses.
We also need to get tougher on drugged driving. My wife with a young child in the car was nearly killed in an accident involving a cannabis influenced drugged driver 15 years ago in Atawhai. The problem has got worse since. Two of Nelson’s recent fatal accidents involve drugs. National has introduced a Bill to Parliament introducing random drug testing with tough penalties similar to drink driving.
I don’t have all the answers and welcome ideas. I have written to Government Ministers and transport agencies highlighting these local concerns. This week I am meeting with Police, Council and roading engineers to learn more and to help achieve increased safety. We all need to do our bit to save lives.