A new trauma review team established by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board has identified the region's most dangerous intersection.
The junction of State Highway 2 and SH33 near Paengaroa has been labelled the Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty's "crash hot spot" by the board's chief operating officer, Phillip Balmer.
"Of the five crashes at this site, four were head-on collisions, resulting in multiple victims from each crash coming into hospital," Mr Balmer said.
The trauma review team was established as part of a Ministry of Health initiative and investigated where and when road traffic injuries occurred and what could be done to prevent them.
The team assessed data from crashes in the local area from January 1, 2012, to November 30, 2012, and found human error at fault in most of the 64 crashes, resulting in hospital stays exceeding 24 hours for people involved. Most of the crashes happened between 12pm and 10pm, peaking in high traffic periods.
Te Puke Golf Club manager Bruce Dalgety said he was not surprised.
"It's got to the point where you hear a bang outside and think, 'Here we go again'. Your first reaction is, 'I hope it's not a club member'."
The golf club is on the northeast corner of the Whakatane turnoff, with its SH2 driveway about 300m from the junction.
"We've had a lot of near misses," Mr Dalgety said.
"I know that we have to be very careful leaving here."
Mr Dalgety said members turning right on to SH2 often encountered cars travelling east, trying to pass trucks once they got on to the straight outside the club - failing to notice double yellow lines or a member's car having just pulled out.
In the past four years, the club had had to replace its fence three times because of cars veering into the fence to avoid a collision, Mr Dalgety said.
"It's people who take no notice of double yellow lines. It took us quite a bit of work to get Transit to paint those lines," Mr Dalgety said.
Truck driver James Olsen agreed the drivers using the intersection were "pretty bad".
"It's so frustrating - people overtaking. You have double yellow lines. It's just crazy," he said.
"We slow down, we don't rush. We give them room. It's just bad attitudes. That's all it is."
The Linfox truck driver travelled through the intersection twice every week for work and said he often felt apprehensive as he approached it.
"There's no problem with the visibility. You can see clearly in all directions. People just don't look. They're in too much of a rush. They drive like they just don't care," he said.
Maketu volunteer fire chief Shane Beech said his brigade was called to crashes at the intersection eight to 12 times last year.
"It's certainly identified by us as one of our black spots," he said.
"It's basically that stretch of road probably one kilometre long from the SH33 intersection, especially at the Te Puke Golf Club."
The store owner at Fruitlands, about 350m north of the intersection, said she had almost become complacent about accidents at the junction because they happened so often.
"The cops are always going past," said the woman, who would not be named.
The New Zealand Transport Association reported the social cost associated with crashes at the intersection over the past five years was $2.96million.
Acting Bay of Plenty state highways manager Nigel D'Ath said improvements to the intersection's safety were already under way as part of the Tauranga Eastern Link project.
A lowered temporary speed restriction and traffic management was soon to be introduced as a large new two-lane roundabout would be constructed in place of the existing T-intersection.
"All traffic will have to slow down to negotiate the roundabout, and the roundabout form also helps in reducing the severity of any crashes should they occur in the future."
His organisation did not want to see any further crashes, and particularly severe-injury accidents, occurring at the intersection, Mr D'Ath said.
Crashes and causes for the Western and Eastern BOP in 2012
64 separate road crashes.
41 crashes could be contributed to human error (driver falling asleep at the wheel, excessive speed of more than 100km/h, inexperience, crossing the centre line, swerving to avoid objects and pulling out in traffic).
11 crashes due to impact with animals, people and stationary objects.
8 crashes as consequence of weather conditions.
4 crashes from road conditions such as loose gravel and pot holes.
2 and 4 occurred in the urban areas of Whakatane and Tauranga respectively. - Bay of Plenty District Health Board