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Drivers urged to take extra care with wild weather forecast

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The NZ Transport Agency is urging drivers to plan ahead and take extra care to stay safe on the roads with wild weather forecast for several parts of the country later this week.

MetService(external link) has issued a severe weather warning with significant heavy rain for the South Island West Coast and Canterbury Headwaters, plus severe northwest gales for eastern parts of central New Zealand.

Drivers are urged to be aware of the risks of sudden surface flooding on roads in Fiordland, the West Coast and other regions where particularly heavy rain is forecast.

With rain also in the forecast in some areas which have undergone long dry spells, drivers are urged to be aware of the risk of ‘summer ice’. With dust, dirt, oil and other material built up during a dry spell, when it rains, the road surface can quickly become greasy, making it very slippery. The greatest risk to drivers is shortly after the rain starts.

Even small amounts of rain after several days of dry weather can trigger these conditions, creating a potential danger for unsuspecting drivers. The Transport Agency is urging people to adjust their driving to keep safe in these conditions:

  • keep your speeds down on wet roads
  • take extra care on curves
  • increase your following distance from vehicles in front of you
  • brake and steer gently
  • allow extra travel time in case you encounter summer ice conditions

The Transport Agency is also urging extra caution for driving in high winds, particularly for those with high-sided vehicles, towing trails or caravans, or riding motorcycles.

There are three potential problems to be aware of if you're driving in high winds:

You can be blown off course

Keep both hands on the wheel, particularly if you're being buffeted by the wind or the slipstreams of other vehicles and anticipate stronger winds and gusts on exposed stretches of road or when passing high-sided vehicles.

It's important to keep your speed down too. The faster you're travelling the further off-course you're likely to drift in a sudden gust before you get the vehicle back under control.

Other vehicles can be blown into your path

High-sided vehicles and caravans are most affected by high winds but sudden gusts can blow any vehicle off course. Keep your distance from other traffic and take particular care around cyclists, motorcyclists and horse-riders.

If you break down on the motorway or on any busy road in gusty weather it's important to bear in mind that trucks and other high-sided vehicles could be blown off course suddenly and may veer onto the hard shoulder. It's safer to move to a safe location away from the vehicle rather than wait in the car to be rescued.

There could be trees or other debris in the road

Inevitably, some trees or branches will come down when winds are high. If you see small branches in the road there could easily be a tree or large branch on the road around the next bend. Keep your speed down and drive with care.

Trees can partially fall and hang above the road, sometimes above the sweep of the headlights, making them very difficult to spot.

If you do have to drive despite the weather

In case of an emergency, always carry a fully-charged mobile phone and warm, weatherproof clothing, food and water.

Plan journeys and check weather and traffic bulletins – low speed limits or even temporary closures may be imposed on exposed bridges and road closures due to falling debris or accidents will be more frequent.

  • For information on the latest driving conditions, go to the Traffic and Travel(external link) map on the Transport Agency’s web page, or phone 0800 4HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49)

Please check the MetService severe weather warnings(external link) for updates.

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