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Busy highways expected this Waitangi Weekend

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Assuming Wellingtonians still have some holidaymaking left in them after a spectacular summer, motorists can expect busy highways north of the Capital this Waitangi Weekend.

NZTA Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen is urging drivers to take care on long journeys, and particularly on unfamiliar routes where the driving conditions and terrain may be different.

“We’re expecting a lot of traffic leaving the Capital, then returning on Sunday. Stress-free journeys are safer journeys so it's important that motorists are patient and ready for the possibility of hold-ups when they set out on their holidays,” Mr Owen said.

Several factors combine to make holiday periods potentially risky.  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. 

Drivers are also reminded about key safety tips of buckling up (including all passengers), keeping to safe speeds and not drink driving or driving while tired.

By staying alert and giving the road the attention and respect it deserves, you can help to ensure you and your loved ones get to your destination safely.

What people can expect on the highway

Drivers can expect SH1 to be at its busiest for northbound travellers during late afternoon today, and between 10am and 1pm tomorrow. For people returning to Wellington, the busiest time is likely to be between 2.30pm and 6.30pm on Sunday, with delays particularly likely at Otaki.

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. This will be in place today. Traffic flows will be monitored on Friday 6 February and Sunday 8 February and traffic management will be implemented, if needed.

The closure of the northbound passing lanes will take effect from 10am and will reopen at 8pm on Thursday 5 February. Traffic flows will be monitored on Friday and traffic management will be implemented, if needed.

On Sunday 8 February, 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 done to improve safety and 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.

“By closing the passing lane when traffic is backed up, we can prevent queue jumpers that disrupt traffic flow.by merging at the end of the passing lane.”

Mr Owen says motorists also need to be aware of 70km/h speed restrictions between Aotea Quay and Ngauranga, where construction is underway on a new ‘smart motorway’, and on SH1 past Poplar Ave, where construction of the Kapiti expressway. Motorists are urged to strictly observe speed limits, not only to keep themselves and other motorists safe, but also for the sake of road workers, who may not always be visible.

Other events in the Greater Wellington Region this Waitangi Weekend include the Wellington Sevens Tournament and the Martinborough Fair. Traffic management for the Sevens will be implemented for post-match times only. Bunny Street will be closed and Featherston Street will have a lane closure between 8pm and 11pm on both Friday and Saturday. Courtenay Place from Cambridge Terrace to Taranaki Street will be closed for Sevens celebrations.

Martinborough Fair traffic management will be in place from 4am – 6.30pm on Saturday 7 Feb. This extends from the last 100m of SH53 towards the Martinborough Square and includes the Square.

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 @nztawgtn Twitter feed for regular local updates, the Transport Agency's website(external link) for nationwide real time travel information, they can call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS, and can also subscribe for email updates at www.onthemove.govt.nz(external link).

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 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 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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