Motorists are being urged to slow down as a spike in vehicles crashing into power poles throughout Northland continues.
The message comes as police, Northland Transportation Alliance, Northpower and Top Energy team up to raise public awareness on the dangers of power pole crashes.
Since 2016 there have been 381 reported crashes involving vehicles hitting power poles, street lamps and telecommunication poles in Northland.
Of those, over 200 were collisions with power poles. One-hundred-and-nine were in the Kaipara and Whangarei Districts on the Northpower electricity network, and 96 on the Top Energy electricity network in the Far North District.
Crash analysis data from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency shows 45 per cent of crashes are in the 15-29-year-old age bracket. Six crashes were fatal, 141 caused injury and the remaining 234 were non-injury crashes. The social cost of the crashes is over $67 million according to Northland Transportation Alliance’s Ian Crayton-Brown.
“Unfortunately Kiwi drivers are just too impatient and aggressive and we can’t afford to be that way on our roads. You just can’t defend that behaviour,” says Mr Crayton-Brown.
Brain injury Association Northland Liaison Officer Vikki Herdman says sadly, a lot of people in road crashes end up with brain injuries and that has a life-long impact on them, their families and communities.
“A moment’s distraction can cause a lifetime of change. People living with brain injuries often live with ongoing fatigue issues. They may travel from Whangarei to Auckland and need to stop for several rests. Fatigue is real, take a break,” says Ms Herdman.
It is a sentiment shared by Senior Sergeant Steve Dickson who says any death on our roads is one too many.
“A third of road deaths are due to people not wearing seat belts, a third is alcohol and drug related and a third is speed – people simply going too fast for the conditions. People also need to avoid being distracted by mobile phones and passengers,” says Mr Dickson.
“Road safety is everybody’s responsibility. Decisions you make as a driver impact not only you and those in your vehicle, but everyone else on the road as well. The speed at which you crash is the biggest determining factor of injury.”
When people take out power poles and ground mounted transformers that creates additional dangers due to the risk of electrocution, fires and power outages in our community, says Northpower Network General Manager Josie Boyd.
“I want to again urge motorists to reduce their speed in winter conditions. We are seeing too many crashes taking out power poles.
“During the initial Covid-19 lockdown we had virtually no incidents but since then we have seen a spike in vehicles crashing into power poles. Our message is that if you are in a vehicle that takes down a power pole and the powerlines end up on the ground, be extremely careful.
“If you can safely drive clear, do so. If not, stay in the vehicle, phone 111 and stay where you are until you are told it is safe to get out. Our crews and emergency services attend to these crashes quickly.
Since 2016 Northpower has experienced 109 vehicle versus pole crashes, interrupting electricity supply to 47,129 customers. During lockdown there were no incidents in May but there have been 13 instances of vehicles hitting poles since June.
The figures for Top Energy are remarkably similar with 96 vehicle versus pole crashes impacting on electricity supply to 44,928 customers.
Tony Smallman, Top Energy Network Operations Manager, wants motorists to slow down and pay more attention on the road.
“We don’t want to see anybody hurt but you can see from these figures that there is a big impact on the rest of community when power poles are taken out. There is an economic and social cost but these incidents also put the safety of others in the community and our lines crews at risk,” says Mr Smallman.
“There is also a large financial cost to these incidents and it is common for repairs to broken poles and powerlines to be in the $15,000 to $30,000 bracket and that is money that doesn’t go back to our consumer owners.”