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Take care when driving between Queenstown and Te Anau

Take care when driving between Queenstown and Te Anau

Nov 1st, 2018, 02:23 PM
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Take care when driving between Queenstown and Te Anau

When driving from Queenstown to Te Anau (or vice versa), please exercise extra caution on the stretch of road between Queenstown and Kingston (part of it known as "The Devils' Staircase"). This scenic and busy stretch of road, which winds along Lake Wakitipu, is known for its high accident rate. According to our local newspaper, "There have been almost 200 crashes on the road since 2000, including six fatal and 12 serious collisions." In the last two weeks alone, there have been two serious crashes involving fatalities in this area.
Diamantina is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2018, 06:43 AM
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Curious why that stretch of road is so accident prone - I recall it being relatively straight and easy driving by South Island standards.

It's the section I chose to introduce my right side driving brother to the left (he declined, as the weather was shite that particular day).

Too many drivers gawking at the scenery instead of the road? Or is the massive bridge construction on SH 6 near Frankton the culprit?
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2018, 04:30 PM
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Looking through the reports of the many crashes at Devil's Staircase, there have been various causes, including drivers crossing the centre line, poor weather (such black ice on the road, rain, or heavy fog), braking to avoid an animal, inattention, driving too fast to the conditions, losing control around bends, vehicle issues, road conditions (grit, rockfalls,etc.), and no doubt underestimating the challenges of this road.

On May 12, 2016, there were two separate daytime crashes within 10 minutes! "Two vehicles spun at the notorious Devil's Staircase on State Highway 6 near Queenstown within 10 minutes of each other yesterday." One involved a German tourist. See:
Just the night before, on May 11, 2016, an American couple in a rental car crossed the centre line in wet conditions, plunged 10 metres down a bank and lodged in vegetation, luckily surviving unscathed. The driver was 52 years old, and while the article doesn't mention if the driver had previous experience of driving on the left, I'd assume that he was an experienced driver. The accident occurred at 6:15 p.m.; perhaps they had not expected it to be dark or wet. On this forum we've mentioned to prepare for the unexpected.
On May 14, 2016, another crash occurred here, bringing that week's total crashes at Devil's Staircase to 4!

And these crashes are continuing to happen along this stretch of highway despite recent investment in an effort to make it safer such as extra safety barriers, more curve warning signs and rumble strips. As we are entering the busiest time of year, I wanted to urge caution.

Last edited by Diamantina; Nov 2nd, 2018 at 05:00 PM.
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Nov 3rd, 2018, 09:19 AM
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Interesting Diamantina, especially as it's not just tourists involved. I specifically remembering looking for the Devil's Staircase sign last May when we drove through. I thought it referred to a walking track (?), but according to Wiki The Devil's Staircase is a "tortuously winding" section of the highway.
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2018, 04:36 PM
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Melnq8, you could be so familiar with this stretch of road and well-aware of where you need to slow down or go easy around the bends, you don't even need to think about it now. It's that way with us and the roads around Dunedin, which can frighten first-time visitors. Often the most dangerous roads are ones that don't appear to be. One of the most dangerous spots along the relative straight and wide, easy-to-drive North Otago coast (between Oamaru and Dunedin) was at the turn-off for Moeraki Boulders. After some horrific accidents, improvements were made, and the accident rate has now dropped: https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/north-...stem-operating
But physical improvements along the Devil's Staircase (extra safety barriers, more curve warning signs and rumble strips) don't yet seem to cutting its accident rate, so maybe we can help get the word out. It saddens me to read about preventable road fataliies and those who've been critcally injured here.

The road from Tekapo to Omarama seems easy, too, but we'd had close calls around the turn-off for the Aoraki Mt. Cook (not Peter's Lookout, but the Lake Pukaki Lookout on SH8, where the shop for Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon is).

Yes, by far more locals than tourists are responsible for accidents. Locals, too, can be in a hurry, or fatigued, or distracted, or intoxicated, or become overly confident in their driving, or be having a medical event, or affected by adverse road conditions, and so on. I've read tourist drivers are only responsible for 1 out of 12 accidents. There's an interesting report on Overseas Driver Crashes (2016) on this link.

The report mentions leading factors contributing to these crashes. One factor was the driver failing to adjust to New Zealand rules or conditions. This was 42 percent for fatal crashes. "The other factors that contributed to crashes of overseas drivers tended to be the same as those for New Zealanders, such as the driver losing control or failing to give way or stop. Failing to keep left was a contributing factor for 4 percent of New Zealand drivers in crashes. This rose to 8 percent for overseas drivers from countries that drive on the right and 6 percent for overseas drivers from countries that drive on the left. For fatal crashes this rose to 32 percent for overseas drivers and 20 percent for New Zealand drivers.

"Half of all visitor crashes occurred in the four months from December to March. This seasonal variation largely aligns with visitor arrival trends, with over half of short-term visitors coming to New Zealand between November and March"

"The top six countries in terms of the number of overseas drivers involved in crashes were Australia, China, Germany, India, the UK and the USA. Combined, these six countries contributed over half (56 percent) of the overseas drivers in crashes. These countries contributed almost three quarters of the international arrivals in 2016."
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Last edited by Diamantina; Nov 3rd, 2018 at 05:06 PM.
Diamantina is offline  
Nov 4th, 2018, 06:17 AM
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Interesting that Australia is so high on the list. WA had a pretty high accident rate when we lived there, but for somewhat different reasons - long endless flat roads, driver fatigue, lack of passing lanes, road trains, wallabies, 'roos and free roaming livestock, not to mention travelers who drastically underestimated drive distances and inattentive driving in general.

We encountered many, many roadworks when we were in NZ in May, such as the major realignment project on Rai Saddle Summit – presumably designed to eliminate some of those whiplash inducing curves and improve safety.

As well as bridgework and cyclone repair (which was seemingly everywhere)

It stands to reason the higher the tourist numbers and population, the higher the accident rate and the more pressure on roads and local drivers, etc.

Here in Colorado we have plenty of driving issues, most of which seem to be impatience and stupidity related, and ultimately preventable.
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