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Driving care needed as Queen’s Birthday weekend coincides with more cars and the start of winter

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The NZ Transport Agency says there are several factors which combined mean Auckland and Northland drivers should take extra care on the roads this Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Safety Director Ernst Zöllner says the onset of winter, higher traffic volumes across the Auckland and Northland network as well as the extra cars from people heading away for the long weekend make this holiday weekend potentially risky on the roads.

“We’re encouraging all drivers to do their bit to help improve last year’s Queen’s Birthday road toll of five deaths and avoid a repeat of the tragic weekend recently that saw 11 people die as a result of road crashes.”

“This long weekend coincides with the start of winter on Monday (1 June) and we encourage all motorists to adjust their driving to winter conditions to keep everyone safe on the roads.”

He says unprecedented growth in traffic in recent years adds to the combination of risk factors.

“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.”

“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.

The Transport Agency also advises of the following road works and closures. Drivers are asked to observe any speed limit restrictions and watch their following distances through road works sites.

  • The Ellerslie-Panmure Highway citybound on-ramp will be closed, along with the left-lane citybound between the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway to Main Highway overbridge, from 8pm to 6am each night, from Friday 29 May to Monday 1 June.
  • The Northwestern motorway will be closed in both directions between Te Atatu and Lincoln Roads from 8pm Saturday 30 May to 8am Sunday 31 May.
  • SH 1 North Side Of Brynderwyn Hills. Large earthworks site. Speed restrictions in place and trucks crossing. Expect an uneven road surface, lane reductions and minor delays at times.

The 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.

Mr Zöllner 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.

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

Check the Transport Agency’s website: www.nzta.govt.nz(external link) for the latest highway information or sign up towww.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 4 fatal crashes and 86 reported injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 6 deaths, 24 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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