Deaths Of 3 British Tourists In Christchurch – Relative Says Power Poles Should Be Moved (Updated)

Power lines should be put underground or power poles moved back from the road to prevent more tragedies like this week’s triple fatality in Christchurch, a relative says.

Three members of an English family died when their car struck a pole after the driver fell asleep in South New Brighton. (see our blog post 3 English people killed in Christchurch car crash“)

Early yesterday, Bruce Richard Wing, 21, was killed when his car struck a pole on Wakanui Rd in Ashburton. (see our blog post 2 More Deaths on NZ’s Roads)

Last year, 36 people died in crashes involving a pole or post, 173 received serious injuries and 745 minor injuries, national road-safety statistics show.

Traffic engineer Tony Francis, a relative of the three killed on Wednesday, said something good could come of the tragedy.

“We need to try and make people understand that poles need to be addressed. People should not die when they strike a pole going at just 35kmh.

“A power pole is one of the most unforgiving things you can hit.”

Francis said fatalities could be avoided by putting power lines underground or placing poles as far back from the road as possible, which was more practical in rural areas. Installing street lights that would absorb the impact and bend when struck by a car would also help .

The Christchurch City Council has no programme to bury cables because of the high cost.

In some cases, lines are put underground when footpaths are upgraded.

A recent example was a stretch of Bridge St, 200m from the site of Wednesday’s fatal crash in Estuary Rd.

A council spokeswoman said it cost $1 million a kilometre to put power and telephone lines underground.

Telecommunications and power lines in Christchurch are jointly owned by Orion and Telecom.

Orion chief executive Roger Sutton said it would cost $1 billion to put all overhead cables in Christchurch underground.

Every effort was made to locate power poles as far back from the road as possible, but often property owners would not give permission for the lines to cross their land.

Orion reviewed safety whenever there was a crash involving one of its power poles, Sutton said.”

We agree, we think that the power poles are way too close to the edge of the road and the pavements are so low that they didn’t deflect even a low speed impact. If the power poles can’t be removed, and the cables routed underground, the posts should be changed so that they do absorb an impact. Power companies returned record profits in New Zealand last year, let no one say this cannot be afforded.

Whilst we appreciate driver fatigue was a factor in this crash it should not have resulted in the deaths of 3 people who were wearing seat belts and travelling at low speed. The design of the urban environment and surrounding infrastructure must be called into question. It’s too easy to always lay the blame with the driver, even if he blames himself.

Update from News

“Electricity and gas supplier Vector is to “sacrifice” a power pole in the name of safety.

The company will film “a controlled car versus power pole scenario” in Hobsonville, 30km northwest of downtown Auckland, today and tomorrow.

The film would be used as an educational tool at staff safety workshops, executive officer Simon Mackenzie said.

“Our people face serious danger everyday, so it is essential that we provide them with the right tools and training to ensure they go home safely,” he said.

Cars hitting poles was one of the most common causes of problems or outages to the network. Mr Mackenzie said the fire service would supervise.”

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