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by Greta Yeoman

A number of near misses at the turnoff to Aoraki/Mt Cook has caused a lot of nervousness among Mackenzie residents, a Twizel-based volunteer firefighter says.

Mackenzie District councillor and Twizel Volunteer Fire Brigade member Paul Hannagan said the intersection of State Highway 8 and Mt Cook Rd, where 42-year-old Qin Li, of China, died in a crash last month, was the cause of “a lot of nervousness” among local drivers.

“We are seeing a lot of near misses [and] non-fatality accidents,” Mr Hannagan said.

Because of this, most Mackenzie residents drove at 80kmh on SHW8 through the intersection, down from the open road speed of 100kmh, he said.

Both fatal incidents had involved cars “nosing” out into traffic from the Mt Cook Highway back on to the Twizel-Tekapo Rd.

However, despite the concern of Mackenzie residents about accidents at the site, data from the NZ Transport Agency showed crash numbers were low.

In the past decade, 15 crashes at the Aoraki/Mt Cook turnoff were registered on the NZTA crash analysis system.

Of these, two were fatal, last month’s and another crash in 2013.

There were three minor injury crashes at the intersection, one earlier this year and the others in 2009 and 2012.

All other crashes were lodged as non-severe accidents, the data showed.

NZTA senior traffic and safety engineer David Scarlet said the agency had investigated the accident and would make some changes to the road design.

This included installing an additional “Give Way 200m” sign on the right-hand side of Mt Cook Rd heading towards the insection, which would be opposite the current sign on the left hand side.

At present, drivers turning off Mt Cook Rd on to the 100kmh SH8 had to give way to traffic, rather than stop.

The NZTA would be painting a 200mm wide edgeline for 300m for all approaches to the intersection, which would make it more obvious than the standard 100mm edgelines, Mr Scarlet said.

The organisation would also begin sweeping the intersection to improve “the visibility of pavement markings” and would install a temporary video camera to record traffic movements at the intersection to improve its understanding of driver behaviour, he said.

There were also plans in the pipeline to install a splitter island on Mt Cook Rd and upgrade the kerbing design to improve the visibility of the intersection.