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Careful driving needed as Queen’s Birthday weekend coincides with winter, higher traffic volumes

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Winter is coming. The upcoming long Queen’s Birthday weekend coincides with the start of winter on Monday (1 June) and the NZ Transport Agency is urging motorists to adjust their driving to winter conditions to keep everyone safe on the roads.

The NZ Transport Agency is encouraging all drivers to do their bit to help improve on last year’s Queens Birthday road toll of five deaths and avoid a repeat of the tragic weekend recently that saw 11 people die on the roads.

National Safety Director Ernst Zöllner says there are several factors that combined make this holiday weekend potentially risky on the roads.

“We have seen unprecedented increases in traffic volumes across many parts of the state highway network in recent years. There are more cars using the roads than ever before, and with many people heading out of town to take advantage of the last long weekend for a few months, state highways across the country are expected to be even busier than usual.”

“Add the forecast wintry weather to that mix with wet, windy and icy conditions and driving can be even more of a challenge.”

Mr Zöllner says drivers need to slow down, watch their following distances, take care when passing and taking corners and drive to the conditions.

“Drivers should adjust their habits. The room for mistakes is much smaller when there are more cars on the road and reduced road conditions. Potentially dangerous driving habits that some motorists may have got away with in the past are far riskier.”

Mr Zöllner says long weekends are a good opportunity for all road users to share in the responsibility of making our roads safer.

He says people also need to plan ahead before heading off by checking on road conditions and traffic congestion, as well as making sure your vehicle is ready for winter.

NZ Transport Agency’s top winter driving tips:

  • Slow down. It only takes a split second to lose control on a wet road. Keeping your speed at 10kmh below the legal limit will greatly reduce your risk of a crash.
  • Stopping distances can nearly double on wet roads. Keep at least a 4 second following distance between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Sunstrike is most likely to hit you at sunrise or sunset. Keep your windscreen clean – inside and out – and be ready to use your sunglasses or sun visors. If you can’t see, pull over and wait till you can.
  • Black ice or frost can make roads very slippery – on winter mornings and wherever it’s shady.
  • Turn on your lights whenever there’s heavy cloud cover, fog or rain. You’ll be much more visible to other road users and you’ll probably be able to see better too
  • Take extra care to watch for motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – especially at intersections and pedestrian crossings. Check carefully, then check again. Have your foot ready over the brake, and watch for pedestrians about to cross.

The NZ Transport Agency’s checklist for a winter-ready vehicle:

  • Get your vehicle checked out now. Good tyre tread depth, lights, brakes, cooling systems, demisters, wiper blades and batteries are all doubly important for winter driving. Check that your spare tyre and tools are all in good condition too.
  • On wet or frosty mornings, clean your windscreen and windows – inside and out – before you even set out. Keep a cloth and some window cleaner in the car to clean away any grime or condensation. Clean windscreens will also help if you get hit with sunstrike.
  • Allow a few extra minutes for your demister to do its job. Make sure you don’t head off until you can see clearly out of both windscreens, all your windows, and your rear and side-view mirrors.
  • Make sure people can see you. Check that all your lights are working properly. Get them on early and turn them off late, or keep them on whenever you’re driving. You’ll be much more visible to other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians – especially at intersections – and you’ll probably be able to see better too.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. Carry warm clothes, sturdy footwear, food, a torch and a first aid kit.

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

Check the Transport Agency’s website: www.nzta.govt.nz for the latest highway information or sign up to www.onthemove.govt.nz(external link) for up-to-date information on what is happening on the route you plan to travel. Freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS for national and regional travel updates.

During Queens Birthday weekend in 2014 there were 3 fatal crashes and 87 reported injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 5 deaths, 25 serious injuries and 92 minor injuries.

The official holiday period for Queen's Birthday Weekend for 2015 will begin at 4pm Friday 29 May and end at 6am Tuesday 2 June.

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