If ever there was a huge un-deserved profit centre it has to be RED CONES. There are millions of them impeding our daily lives adding very little but producing huge risk-free windfalls for contractors working anywhere near a road. Even questioning their need is tantamount to heresy as they are justified on the altar of safety.

The safety they are apparently providing for is that of the workers on the roads and that is fair enough, but it has got out of control as there are now more safety workers to be protected than anybody actually doing any work. It won’t take long to spot examples of this.

A recent one holding up traffic on a state highway involved three safety trucks and their drivers, 280 red cones, three road controlling sign-holders, 800m of single lane traffic bumping over hard obstacle lines all for one person driving a digger doing work that any competent engineer could see was a complete waste of time. What the digger driver was doing was excavating a roadside drain to a level below the drain’s outfall, hence resulting in a deeper long pond for foolish drivers to land in and no improvement in drainage at all.

Red cones are regularly out on our roads accompanied by speed restrictions but not accompanied by any staff or work being done at all. This is of course a dangerous game of Wolf-Whistle. Drivers get used to needless red cones and 50 or even 30kph signs with no activity associated with these dire warnings so they speed through. Then if the driver comes to red cones and speed reduction signs that actually represent a danger such as a pot-hole or deep excavation they plough into this obstruction at full speed.

Weekends are the worst time for this as the road crews knock off on Friday afternoon and leave all their cones etc out over the weekend for the sole reason that they can’t be bothered retrieving them. This has the added advantage to the contractor of allowing for them to be charged out over the weekend even when they are of no use.

It is high time that NZTA and other road controlling authorities policed these safety measures to ensure they are needed, don’t reduce driver’s belief in them and are removed when they are not being actively used. Countries like Holland demand that traffic interrupting activities are only in play in low traffic hours and the contractors are fined if they are still out there when not needed or when high traffic volumes demand the full highway be available.

This, of course will only happen when the boards of these road controlling organisations have engineers, rather than accountants setting their plans. Here’s hoping!


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