Make this weekend a happy anniversary, Otago


Drivers are being urged to take the time to plan ahead for a safe trip this long Otago Anniversary weekend.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), Police, ACC and the Ministry of Transport are reminding drivers to ensure they are well rested and prepared before hitting the highways this long weekend.

NZTA Regional Director Southern Jim Harland says in the last five years Otago Anniversary weekend crashes have claimed one life and seriously injured 15 people.  All road users need to play their part to ensure this Anniversary weekend we do not add to that figure.

An important part of that is for drivers to ensure they remain vigilant behind the wheel, whether they are heading away for a break or spending the long weekend closer to home he said.

Southern Road Policing Manager Inspector Andrew Burns said there will be a strong road police presence along all the main holiday routes over the long holiday weekend. Staff will be on the look out for behaviour that puts other road users at risk, including slow drivers holding up traffic, drunk drivers and motorists using cell phones.

Provisional statistics for 2010 show there were 18 fatalities on Otago roads, seven more than 2009. So far this year there have been five fatalities in the Otago region - one more than that for the corresponding period last year.

Staying safe on the roads this anniversary weekend

The NZ Transport Agency, Police, ACC and the Ministry of Transport have put together some simple tips and advice for people to avoid crashes over the break. And we'll be doing our part as well.

Here are some things we'll be doing to keep the roads safe these holidays, and some things we're asking drivers to do to make their own journeys safe ones.

What we’ll do for you these holidays

1) Keep you informed about the roads so you can plan your journey
You can get up to date information about what’s happening on the roads via variable message signs on the roadside, online at link), or by calling 0800 444 449.

2) Give you the tools to help you plan a safe trip so your journey is safe and enjoyable
All of the information you need is available here - link)

Things you can do to make your journeys safer these holidays

1) Plan ahead
It will take the stress out of your journey and can make the trip an enjoyable part of the holiday.

Plan to have enough rest beforehand and plan to share the driving to stay fresh and avoid the risks of fatigue. Allow enough time to get to your destination safely.

Schedule in breaks on your trip, and sort out entertainment and refreshments to keep the kids occupied.

Think about the route you'll take - how safe are the roads you are planning to travel on? Will you be travelling on unfamiliar roads? Be aware that different parts of our roads provide different levels of safety. Roadside hazards like trees, ditches, poles and narrow shoulders can increase risk. Intersections can be dangerous, so can busy roads without a median barrier. Armed with that knowledge people can adjust their driving to the conditions and take extra care on higher risk roads.  Further information and risk maps for state highways in New Zealand are available at link).

2) Check your car before hitting the road
A safe and well maintained car can stop you having a crash or protect you if there is one. Don’t just hop in the car and go, it only takes a few minutes to check your tyre treads and pressure, and it could save your life.
Also remember to check your oil, water and lights. Most garages offer safety checks for tyre tread and pressure, lights, brakes, cooling systems and other components. A well tuned vehicle is also more fuel efficient so you'll also save money on fuel costs.

We tend to cram a lot of gear in for the holidays, but loose items can be dangers to people in the car. Make sure everything is safely packed away. If you’re going to be towing make sure all the couplings are compatible. Also, remember to check the safety chain, trailer lights, tyres and brakes. See link) for more tips on safe towing.

3) Drive to the conditions
Every road is different and every journey is different. Remember the ‘conditions’ mean more than just the weather. They also include the state of the road, the traffic conditions, your vehicle, your load, and you - are you stressed or tired? Take a break.

4) If you’re going to drink, plan a safe way home
You need to be sober to control your vehicle properly and be aware of what’s going on around you. Plan ahead and know how you're getting home before you go out drinking - have a sober driver, use public transport, take a taxi or walk if it’s safe and practical.

5) Expect the unexpected
Over the holidays the road environment can be more unpredictable. There could be a queue, a bike or even a horse around the corner.

If you’re driving, make sure you keep an eye out for cyclists and other road users. Give them plenty of space. Watch out for horses on back country roads. If you’re cycling or motorcycling, make sure you’re visible and wearing proper protective gear. If you’re towing or driving slowly, keep an eye on what’s behind you. Pull over safely to let traffic pass.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!