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Safe travel tips for Wellington holidaymakers

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While it’s hard to understand why Wellingtonians would want to stray far from the Capital’s perfect weather this summer, the NZ Transport Agency is reminding Wellington motorists that if they do plan to head away, preparing for holiday journeys is about more than just packing a suitcase.

With the new lower alcohol limits now in place and the Christmas / New Year holidays 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 ahead for their journeys this summer.

Last year, from 23 December to 4 Jan there was 1 fatal crash and 3 serious injury crashes resulting in 1 death, 5 serious injuries and 1 minor injury. This is compared with the 2012/13 Christmas and New Year period, where there were no fatalities and one serious crash. 

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.

“Planning for a long journey is about much more than remembering to pack your togs and toothbrush – it’s about preparing for the journey before you hit the road.  This means making sure your vehicle and its tyres are in good nick, avoiding alcohol and getting some rest before getting behind the wheel, and checking the highway conditions online.”

He says that people travelling on New Zealand roads during the 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.  It’s also important to remain vigilant about the lower alcohol limit, 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.”

Traffic changes to keep queues down

Mr Owen says the northbound passing lane at Otaki will be closed on 19, 20, 24 and 31 December between 10am and 6pm when traffic is expected to get heavy. This is supported by Police and helps to improve traffic flow. The southbound passing lane at Otaki will be closed on 4 and 11 January between 10am and 6pm. Traffic flows will be monitored through the Christmas and New Year period and additional traffic management will be implemented if needed; and removed once traffic flows return to normal.

“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.”

A holiday from roadworks too

Mr Owen says the Transport Agency will be ceasing all non-emergency roadworks over the official Christmas-New Year period of 12.00pm on Friday 19 December 2014 until 9.00am on Monday 5 January 2015. 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 repair.

Getting there in one piece

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, 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.

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, DVDs or electronics 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.

“Traffic on the open road increases sharply during the peak holiday periods, 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) For the latest travel information go to www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link) or call the NZTA Freephone 0800 4HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49). You can also follow the @nztawgtn twitter feed for updates on road conditions, delays and closures or subscribe for email updates at www.onthemove.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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