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EASTER WEEKEND – PLAN AHEAD: Heading away for the long weekend? Check our holiday journeys tool(external link)

Prepare for busy highways on Wellington Anniversary weekend

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Many Wellingtonians may have only just returned from their New Years’ holidays, but that won’t stop holidaymakers from packing their bags and heading out of town this Wellington Anniversary Weekend.

With the highway north of Wellington likely to be busier than normal, Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen is urging drivers to plan ahead and take care when heading out on long journeys, particularly on unfamiliar routes where the driving conditions and terrain may be different.

“We're expecting large numbers of traffic leaving the Capital on Friday, then returning on Monday, along with others who have been away on extended holidays. As it’s a relatively short break, the concentration of traffic during peak periods tends to be pretty high, and we ask that holidaymakers are patient and ready for the possibility of hold-ups when they set out on their journeys”, Mr Owen said.

Mr Owen says more vehicles on the road, driver fatigue and other stressful things like heat, traffic delays and noisy children all combine to make our roads riskier during the holidays. 

Mr Owen suggests that drivers remember a few simply safety tips – keep to safe speeds and watch following distances, don’t drive when tired or after consuming alcohol, buckle up, check your car and your tyres before heading out, and drive to the conditions.

“Many crashes come from otherwise competent drivers having momentary lapses. If you stay alert and give the road the attention and respect it deserves, it will mean a safer trip for you, your loved ones, and everyone else on the roads.”

During peak travel times, the Transport Agency will be closing the SH1 northbound passing lanes north of Te Horo, as well as the southbound passing lane, north of Otaki.

Temporary traffic management measures will be in place within the Otaki township, to improve traffic flow, including local traffic diversions to minimise the delays created by merging of traffic at the roundabout. This includes closing Mill Road and banning traffic from turning out of Mill Road onto the highway or Rahui Road. Traffic will be allowed to turn onto Mill Road from SH1 or Rahui Road.

The closure of the northbound passing lanes will take effect from approximately 10am and will reopen at 8pm on Friday 16 January. If needed, they will be implemented on Saturday 17 January.

On Monday 19 January, NZTA will close the SH1 southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, from 10am and will reopen at 8pm, depending on traffic volumes. If traffic remains heavy, passing lanes will remain closed longer until we are satisfied traffic flows have reduced.

Mr Owen says the closure of the passing lanes, which is supported by the Police, is a proven method to enable smoother, safer traffic flows when the roads are under heavy demand. The lanes will be appropriately signposted and fenced off with traffic cones, and we're reminding people to obey the normal road rules by keeping left.

Wings over Wairarapa will attract thousands of spectators and event participants. Traffic management will be in place along SH2, High Street Masterton, daily from the 16th -18th of January. This includes a temporary speed restriction from 5.45am to 9pm or until deemed necessary. The Transport Agency is urging patience if attending this event and suggests leaving plenty of time for travel and parking.

Other events that are likely to keep the roads busy are the Otaki Trots on Sunday, the Levin A & P show on Saturday and Sunday, and the Trentham races on Monday. Traffic management will be in place to keep traffic moving but delays could arise.

Mr Owen says motorists should also be aware that speed limits are in place on the motorway near Ngauranga Gorge, and on State Highway 1 past Poplar Ave in Paraparaumu, as construction is underway. Motorists may also encounter roadworks on their journeys, as crews are doing out road resurfacing at numerous locations throughout the lower North Island.

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 experiencing delays during high traffic flows 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). People can also follow @nztawgtn for local twitter updates.

Getting there in one piece

Here are the Transport Agency's top tips for driving safely during the long weekend.

  • 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 33 road deaths and 109 serious injuries in 2013. 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.  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.  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.

“We all make mistakes sometimes, but mistakes on the road can have serious or even deadly consequences.  Staying alert, keeping your speeds down, being courteous and driving to the conditions will help  you and your passengers to enjoy safer journeys this summer.”

Find out about making every journey safer by visiting www.saferjourneys.govt.nz(external link) 

For more information please contact:

Anthony Frith
Media Manager - Central

T: 04 894 5251
M: 027 213 7617
E: anthony.frith@nzta.govt.nz

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