With summer in full swing and Christmas just around the corner, the NZ Transport Agency says now’s a good time for Wellington holidaymakers to think about ways to stay safe and plan their journeys.
Last year, there were no fatalities in the Wellington region over the 2012/13 Christmas and New Year period, and one serious crash. This was an encouraging drop from 2011, when two people died and six were seriously injured.
But many Wellingtonians will be packing their bags and heading elsewhere, and Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen is urging these drivers to take care on long journeys, and particularly on unfamiliar routes where the driving conditions and terrain may be different.
He says that people travelling on New Zealand roads during a holiday period need to be aware that the risks are significantly higher.
“More vehicles on the road, driving on unfamiliar roads, driver fatigue and other stressful things like heat, traffic jams, noisy children and general tiredness—all these combine to make our roads riskier during the holidays. Plus, people on holiday may be less vigilant about not drink driving, keeping to a safe speed, not driving when tired, and always buckling up.
“By staying alert and giving the road the attention and respect it deserves, you can increase safety for you and your passengers.”
On 20 and 21 December, there will be temporary traffic measures at SH1's Otaihanga Roundabout to reduce congestion. Right turns will be banned onto Otaihanga Road from the highway, and also from the highway onto Otaihanga Road. Motorists are asked to follow the signs and follow Mazengarb and Ratanui Roads instead.
Mr Owen says the northbound passing lane at Te Horo will be closed tomorrow morning when traffic is expected to get heavy, and reopened on Saturday afternoon. This is supported by Police and helps to improve traffic flow. There will also be further closures of passing lanes in busy periods during January.
“Passing lanes are great when the traffic is free flowing and motorists have more discretion over their travel speeds. The reason we close them during the holiday rush is because when everyone’s crawling, passing lanes can actually disrupt traffic flow by acting as a queue jumping device. It’s not the vehicle in front of you that’s holding you up; it’s the sheer volume of traffic on the roads.”
Mr Owen says the Transport Agency will be ceasing all non-emergency roadworks over the official Christmas-New Year period, but later in January people are likely to regularly encounter roadworks as road crews take advantage of warm conditions and lighter traffic volumes to resurface the highways. He asks that drivers exercise patience when they come across road crews, as they are working to keep the roads safe and in good nick.
Mr Owen says there are plenty of ways for the public to keep up to date with traffic conditions so they can make informed travel choices and reduce the chance of hitting trouble on the highway. People can check the Transport Agency’s website(external link) for travel information before heading out, they can call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS, and can also subscribe for email updates at www.onthemove.govt.nz(external link)
Here are the Transport Agency’s top tips for driving safely during the holidays.
Plan ahead. 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. It’s your holiday after all, so why not make the journey an enjoyable part of it?
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, and even you as a driver (for example being tired or on medication that might affect your driving).
Watch out for fatigue. Long trips are tiring and fatigue can be deadly behind the wheel. Driver fatigue was a factor in 32 road deaths and 141 serious injuries in 2011. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and plan in advance where you’ll take breaks along the way.
Keep your cool. Holiday driving can be frustrating with busy roads, stifling heat and restless kids in the car. So please, be courteous and patient while on the roads. 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. And be sure to take enough games, books and DVDs to keep the kids 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. And remember that the laws about child restraints changed on 1 November, so children must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint until their 7th birthday.
Mr Owen says that it’s important to remember that we all play a part in making our roads safer for everyone using them.
“Traffic really increases during the holidays, and drivers have to share the road with a range of vehicles, from recreational cyclists to campervans and boats being towed. Research shows us that tailgating is one of the most annoying things you can do as a driver, and it’s extremely unsafe too, so always keep at least a 2-second following distance between you and the vehicle in front. This gives you a safe stopping distance if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly.
“We all make mistakes sometimes, but mistakes on the road can have serious or even deadly consequences. Staying alert, being courteous and driving to the conditions are all key elements of a safe journey for you and your passengers this summer.”
Find out about making every journey safer by visiting www.saferjourneys.govt.nz(external link)