Deadly crossing

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    A car which has ended up in a ditch at the Oteramika Rd and Mill Rd South intersection after a crash earlier this year. Photo: John Grant

    DRIVER impatience, arrogance and entitlement – crossing the Mill Rd South intersection along Oteramika Rd is like playing Russian roulette, according to some nearby residents.

    John Grant bikes along Oteramika Rd, from Kennington to Invercargill and return, 10 times a week.

    He has cycled the return journey of 20km, for the past 25 years.

    It’s a dangerous excursion, but it shouldn’t be.

    He has seen the results of collisions at the Mill Rd South intersection, one as recent as a few months ago.

    “It’s a dangerous crossing and has been a dangerous crossing for a number of years,” he said.

    “There have been fatalities… I know of at least two.”

    Kennington residents Geoff Scott (left) and John Grant alongside some of the rumble bars which have become detached from Mill Rd South. Photo: Jenet Gellatly

    The nearby blue cross, with a blood-red heart, attests to one.

    It was placed at the roadside after a fatal crash, he said.

    Mr Grant is frustrated and sad, but mainly, he is dumbfounded – despite several fatalities at the site, nothing of any substance has been done to prevent further deaths.

    “After the crash 15 years ago, there was talk about staggering the intersection” – rather than Mill Rd South continuing straight across Oteramika Rd, motorists would have to travel slightly along Oteramika Rd before turning on to the continuation of Mill Rd South.

    “There was also talk about rumble strips then.”

    Yellow centre posts and rumble strips were installed on Mill Rd South after a fatal collision in November last year. Many of the rumble strips had already disintegrated, with rubber strips and nails scattered over the road and verges.

    Mr Grant had written letters, sent emails and tried to make appointments with official representatives –  the only constant was the wall of indifference he encountered, he said.

    “There seems to be an institutionalised inertia over road safety.

    “I have written to police three times about cycling safety on Oteramika Rd, dating back to 2017.” He had received no response.

    “Eventually, when I filled in a formal complaint form [to police], including saying I had a video of dangerous driving, someone rang me. They weren’t interested in the video because it didn’t show the registration plate.

    “It seems nothing proactive is done until there’s a disaster,” he said.

    About 15 years ago, he spoke to Invercargill City Council (ICC) roading division staff about strategies for preventing fatal crashes such as “staggering the junction, reducing the speed limit and putting in speed bumps, and painting hazard signs on the road”.

    Unfortunately, the large warning signs which had been installed along Mill Rd South had not been completely effective as vehicles still drove straight across the junction without stopping, he said.

    He asked for further strategies, such as video surveillance of the intersection.

    He sent a letter to ICC roading manager Russell Pearson in November last year and met with him and ICC project technician, capital projects David McCormick in July this year. He was told the council was still waiting on the crash report from last November’s fatality before they could “do something about it [the intersection]”, he said.

    His son knew Nola Paterson-Barton who was killed at the intersection on November 19, and he was saddened by yet another unnecessary death, one which robbed three daughters of their mother and a husband of his wife. The other driver had failed to stop at the stop sign, which also had two warning signs before the intersection one which stated it was a high crash zone.

    “The legal penalties seem to be much weaker… as in the recent fatality …when the man who caused the crash was playing Russian roulette with someone else’s life, received a minimal sentence,” he said.

    Since that fatality, Mr Grant had seen the result of yet another crash, a sedan, taped with ‘police evidence’ which ended up in a ditch alongside Oteramika Rd in February this year.

    “It was not unusual to see people jump that crossing,” Mr Grant said.

    “The authorities don’t have a clue… people are still jumping the crossing.”

    Local resident Geoff Scott also had concerns about the lack of safety at the intersection, and the inefficiency of the stop and warning signs along Mill Rd South.

    Mr Scott said he had “witnessed the aftermath of a number of accidents… at least eight, not including minor accidents” since 2012.

    He had also been “forced to stop” along the road to avoid “broken glass from tail lights and headlights which had been smashed when cars had suddenly stopped along Oteramika Rd and been rear-ended”.

    Of concern to him were people’s attitudes, it was their “personal road” and the rules did not apply to them.

    In particular, it was drivers who “try to bait the people driving along Oteramika Rd”, which he said he had witnessed during the past 18 months to two years.

    “They hang back [at the stop sign]… hang back, then barrel along… it’s a bit of a game to them.

    “It (crashes) happens on such a regular basis that it can’t be a coincidence.”

    He had spoken to a number of police officers informally, he said.

    To reduce impacts, both men suggested placing a speed limit along Oteramika Rd to Mill Rd South, off-set the intersection, or install video surveillance.

    “With more residents settling along the road, that would be sensible,” Mr Scott said.

    “Mill Rd South should be 80kmh and Oteramika Rd should be extended to 80kmh from the city boundary to the Mill Rd South intersection.”

    “When I approached the ICC, they said they couldn’t do anything about it [speed] until the community requested to do so,” Mr Grant said.

    Mr Pearson did not respond to questions at the time of going to print.

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