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A Canterbury Highway Patrol operation targeting the 63 km stretch of State Highway 7 between the Hanmer turnoff and the Lewis Pass summit kicks off again. Despite it being such a short stretch of road, it has a disproportionately high number of accidents.
In early 2008 Canterbury Highway Patrol identified the 63 km stretch of State Highway 7 between the Hanmer turnoff and the Lewis Pass summit as being over represented in the number of fatal road crashes in the previous three years.
In particular from July to December 2005 to 2007, there had been four fatal crashes killing five people, and eight serious injury crashes. During the operation last year there was no fatal crash so police will again focus on that area.
Acting Sergeant Richard Parker says the high risk times are from Thursday to Sunday.
"Drivers are just generally going too fast for conditions," he says. "The majority are one car crashes where the vehicle has gone off the road at a bend. In the four hours after the road opened at 2pm after closing with snow one recent weekend, 14 drivers were pulled over for speeding, one at 135km/hr in the heavy snow. They could hardly pull over off the road for the snow yet they were travelling at these speeds. They're just falling off the road."
Canterbury Highway Patrol mounted Operation Jasmine July - December 2008 with the aim of reducing fatal crashes on that section of Highway 7.
Speed, Lost Control at a bend and Head on Crashes at bends were the major causes of crashes in this area. Police targeted Speed and Failing to Keep Left of the centreline in an effort to reduce the high number of these crashes.
Acting Sergeant Richard Parker says that there were no fatal crashes during the 2008 Operation.
"This is a saving of millions of taxpayer dollars, but what real price can be placed on a human life?"
At the conclusion of the operation the number of tickets issued in this area was up 400% from what was issued during the same period in 2005 and significantly more than in 2006 and 2007. A total of 438 tickets was issued. There were six driver licences suspended as the offenders were travelling in excess of 140 kmph, with the highest speed recorded at 162 kmph.
Police caught seven disqualified drivers (who had their cars impounded on the spot), with a further six drivers who had their licences suspended for three months for exceeding 100 demerit points.
"We were thrilled that there were no fatal crashes during last year's Operation but disappointed that there were still 13 crashes, two serious injuries and the high number of drivers who are still speeding, cutting corners and failing to drive to the conditions."
Police are again targeting this stretch of Highway from July to December 2009 in an effort for zero road deaths.
Over the first two weekends of the 2009 Operation, 157 tickets were issued on State Highway 7 between Waipara and the Lewis Pass.
"Weather was poor over these two weekends and it was very disappointing that so many motorists are still speeding and taking unnecessary risks," says Parker. "Most offending drivers are from the West Coast, Buller, Nelson and Canterbury regions. Tourists are seldom offending."
Police urge all drivers to take care over these winter months because there is a lot of ice and grit on the roads.