Prepare your teen for their drive to this year's Taupo Winterfest


Winter is here, and for parents with teenagers heading the Taupo Winterfest, it's time to start thinking about how you can help your teen drivers prepare for a safe journey to and from the festival.

Remember, it is not just advice for when they arrive at the event that is useful - but guidance for the drive there and back is vital too.

For some teens, this will be their first experience of driving long distances in potentially wet and icy conditions - a stressful experience for both the driver and the parent waiting at home.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has created a dedicated website to help parents with teen drivers - link) - which offers a set of practical skills and free tools to encourage parents to work alongside their teens to help identify and manage risk situations, when driving by themselves.

"The Safe Teen Driver website not only provides useful festival hazard advice to discuss with your teen, it also suggests some different ways to talk about the risks so they don't think you're over-reacting," says NZTA State highway manager Kaye Clark.

Mrs Clark suggests the following tips for driving to the Taupo Winterfest on 22 -26 August:

  • If you're going to this festival as a family let your teen drive so they can practice with you alongside them, in winter conditions.
  • Approaching Lake Taupo from the south there is likely to be plenty of traffic on SH1 between Waiouru and Taupo.  This stretch on the Desert Road, South of Turangi, and immediately north of Turangi on the edge of Lake Taupo can be particularly windy.
  • Be wary of ice on the roads around the central plateau. The Desert Road (State highway 1) is sometimes closed due to snow in the winter. Before setting out check the NZTA website for information on road closures.
  • Following the recent eruption of Tongariro, NZTA has been involved with cleaning the ash deposits from the highways and State highway 1 (Desert Road),  however some still remains on State highway 46 from Rangipo to its junction with State highway 47. There may be some dust created in dry weather and roads may become slippery in wet weather. Ash and debris has also accumulated within one or two streams upstream of State highway 46 and this may create mud flows affecting the highway itself. As a precaution the NZTA are advising motorists not to stop or park on State highway 46 at this time and to also keep speeds down in wet weather.
  • The Atiamuri Bridge replacement project is under construction on SH1 39km north of Taupo and temporary speed restrictions are in place.
  • Some sections of the SH1 north of Taihape to south of Waioru may not see the sun until late in the morning and can be icy even when the road appears to be dry and ice free elsewhere. Talk to your teen about safe driving in icy conditions and use the opportunity to increase their skills in the challenging conditions found on roads at altitude.
  • Check opening times and travel directions for the Manawatu gorge.  There is no overtaking on this section of highway so your teen will need to be patient.  If taking one of the alternative routes, they should take their time and be courteous.

Other key areas the NZTA encourages parents to discuss with their teen drivers includes:

  • Highlighting the best route and busy areas
    Where possible, parents should thoroughly plan their teen's route with them, so they can concentrate on driving and not be distracted by navigating
  • The importance of getting enough sleep
    Even moderate sleep deprivation can be dangerous when driving
  • Driving at night
    40% of crashes involving young drivers happen when it's dark
  • Driving with friends in the car
    When a young driver has two or more passengers in the car with them, they're ten times more likely to have a crash than if they were driving alone. If those passengers are about the same age as the driver, the risk is more than fifteen times higher than if they were driving alone.


Notes to editors:

  • The Safe Teen Driver campaign, launched in June 2011, aims to improve the poor road safety record of teenage drivers in New Zealand.
  • The campaign acknowledges that learning to drive is not only a practical skill; it also requires guidance from parents to help their teens assess risks and make informed decisions about driving.
  • The website encourages parents to help their teen identify and manage the highest risk situations they might face when driving by themselves. The site offers parents a set of tools to help them.
    • Think it - a quiz to help your teen identify the risks they might face driving solo
    • Talk it - discussing the risks with your teen, without starting an argument
    • Try it - tips on how to go driving with them when they first encounter the risks
    • The Plan - working with them to decide how to manage those risks safely, before they have to deal with them
  • New Zealand has the highest road death rate in the OECD for 15-17 year olds, and the fourth highest road death rate for 18-20 year-olds.
  • Data shows that New Zealand's teen drivers are most at risk of having a serious crash in the first six to 12 months of driving solo on a restricted licence.  They are more vulnerable on the road during this period than at any other time in their lives.
  • Each year from 2006-2010 there have been around 1,300 crashes resulting in injury or death involving teen drivers on a restricted licence.
  • The key conditions of the restricted licence are:
    • Restricted licence holders must not drive by themselves between 10pm and 5am. If they are going to drive between these times they must have a fully licensed supervisor in the front passenger seat); and
    • Restricted licence holders must not carry passengers unless they have a supervisor with them (subject to some exceptions for spouses and dependents).
  • When a young driver has two or more passengers in the car with them, they're ten times more likely to have a crash than if they were driving alone. If those passengers are about the same age as the driver, the risk is more than fifteen times higher than if they were driving alone.
  • 40% of crashes involving young drivers (aged 15-24) happen when it's dark.
  • Young drivers are disproportionately involved in crashes at night (particularly Friday and Saturday nights).
  • Since the Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS) was introduced in 1987, the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes has dropped by about 70%.