A treacherous stretch of road that has already claimed one life this year could soon become safer.
The New Zealand Transport Agency is considering using the section of State Highway 29 encompassing the eastern and western flanks of the Kaimai Range as a trial for weather-activated variable speed signs.
The Bay of Plenty Times reported on five crashes in the Kaimai Range during April alone.
In the worst of them, Te Awamutu man Athol Ian Bree died when his truck plunged down a steep bank on the Matamata side of the Kaimai summit on April 11.
NZTA Bay of Plenty state highways manager Brett Gliddon said the trial would look at having speed zones on the eastern and western flanks that would lower the mandatory speed over the Kaimai Range during severe weather.
"A significant number of crashes along this section of state highway occur during inclement weather, with wet road conditions which can be very localised," he said.
"By lowering the speeds to match the driving conditions during these localised periods of bad weather we can raise the drivers awareness of travelling at a safer speed."
Mr Gliddon said the feasibility of the trial in terms of costs and location options for the signs was now being assessed. Once the agency was happy the trial had merit, road users would be consulted.
It was hoped the trial could start before winter.
Western Bay of Plenty road policing manager Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said that the signs were another tool which would help reduce the number of road crashes in the area.
"The Kaimais certainly gets its share of inclement weather and a significant number of crashes occur during those weather conditions," he said.
"Having weather-activated speed-limit signs will help remind motorists to slow down during those adverse conditions."
The police road policing unit had specifically targeted the area between April 1 and August 31 for the three years to encourage motorists to drive sensibly, Mr Campion said.
"This year we had a crash reduction of 28.5 per cent. That was on the back of a 56 per cent reduction in 2011 and a 63 per cent reduction in 2010."
During the five-month campaign this year there was one serious injury crash and four non-injury crashes on the Tauranga side of the Kaimai summit, he said.
"That's a huge improvement on three years ago."
Road Transport Association New Zealand regional director Derek Dumbar praised the initiative.
The AA and government agencies have given the Kaimai Range a two-star rating. A two-star highway is one that has major deficiencies, such as poor alignment, poor roadside conditions, inadequate median protection and poorly designed intersections at regular intervals.