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Drive safely, we want you here for Christmas: a Santa-sized sack of safe driving tips

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The message from NZ Police and the NZ Transport Agency to drivers and motorcyclists this year is simple – drive/ride safely, we want you here for Christmas.

Plan ahead and stay safe.  Get your vehicle checked before you head out, plan to avoid peak traffic where you can and give yourself enough time to take plenty of rest or sightseeing breaks along the way.  Make the journey an enjoyable part of your holiday, says Lee Wright, Transport Agency Journey Manager.

Drive to the conditions.  This isn’t just about weather conditions—it’s about the road you’re on, the traffic, your vehicle and load, your speed, your following distance, and adjusting your driving for wet and windy conditions.

Watch out for fatigue.  Long trips are tiring and fatigue can be deadly behind the wheel. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand, plan in advance where you’ll take breaks along the way, and be aware of any medication you’re taking that might affect your driving.

“In the middle and top of the South Island the Police and Transport Agency contractors will be distributing water bottles with fatigue reminders and other items promoting the Transport Agency’s real time journey planner tool(external link) as part of the ‘plan ahead and stay safe’ summer journeys campaign,” says Ms Wright. www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz(external link)

To minimise delays, most road works, barring emergency repairs, around the Southern Region will be stopped from today and not resume until 8 January.

“There will still be some speed restrictions around work sites throughout the holiday period,” says Ms Wright. “Please stick to speed restrictions – they are in place for your safety and the safety of other road users.”

Keep your cool.  Holiday driving can be frustrating with busy roads, stifling heat and restless children. So please, be courteous and patient. Don’t get provoked by other drivers’ aggressive behaviour, and wait to overtake until you get to a passing lane or can see enough clear road ahead of you to do it safely.  Take enough games, books, DVDs, snacks and ideas to keep youngsters occupied along the way.

Buckle up.  Don’t let your family holiday be marred by tragedy simply because someone didn’t buckle up. If you’re the driver, you are legally responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 15 are securely restrained with either a safety belt or child restraint.  Children must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint until their seventh birthday.

Don’t drink and drive.  The alcohol limit for adult drivers is now lower, and your judgement and reaction times begin to deteriorate after even one drink. Keep it simple – if you’re going to drink, don’t drive.

Holiday Hotspots

Some highways get more congested than others over the holidays and busy days like Christmas Eve or the end of the statutory holiday period (the weekend of 6 and 7 January and again before school resumes).

Please check www.nzta.govt.nz/hotspots(external link) and bear in mind that highways around Otago – SH8 to Wanaka and through the Lindis Pass and in Southland SH94 to Te Anau and Milford Sound can also get very busy as well as the main road to Queenstown (SH6).

Southern holiday hotspots map

Kaikoura/Picton to Christchurch

For advice on the two main highway routes to Kaikoura and the hours of opening, visit the SH1 Picton to Christchurch web page: www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c. Please check this website at least two hours before you travel. People travelling outside the daylight hours 7 am to 8.30 pm will need to travel via the Lewis Pass (SH7) which is open 24/7.

How to stay up to date:

  • For key traffic and travel information providing up-to-date information on weather and road conditions, visit www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link) 
  • Important information is also shared via the Transport Agency’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts
  • Drivers can also call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) to speak to the call centre team who can provide them with traffic and travel information either before they’re travelling or when they’re on the road.
  • MetService severe weather warnings are available here.(external link)
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