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Queues expected north of Ōtaki tomorrow afternoon

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The NZ Transport Agency is urging motorists returning to Wellington tomorrow to leave early if they want to dodge queues that are likely to form north of Ōtaki in the afternoon.

Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen says large southbound queues typically form north of the Ōtaki roundabout from mid to late afternoon at the end of a long weekend, and the best way to avoid these queues is to leave early.

“The biggest queues usually eventuate on Monday afternoon and early evening, as traffic builds on State Highway 1 north of the Ōtaki Roundabout.

“If you’re driving south through Ōtaki on Monday, you’re likely to hit heavy traffic from mid-afternoon onwards.  We advise motorists to expect heavy delays, and to perhaps stop in Foxton or Levin for a break beforehand. Alternatively, you could hit the highway before lunchtime and dodge the delays.”

Mr Owen says the Peka Peka to Ōtaki section of the Kapiti Expressway will provide a permanent solution to this ongoing source of frustration for motorists.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel – construction of the northern section of the Kapiti Expressway, which includes a bypass of Ōtaki, is expected to begin next year and the problem will become a thing of the past when the project is completed.”

Mr Owen says traffic measures will be in place to assist traffic flow in Ōtaki (further info below), but delays remain likely when the afternoon influx hits.

Mr Owen reminds motorists that 70km/h speed limits are in place on the motorway south of Ngauranga, and on SH1 past Poplar Avenue.

Passing lane closures and Ōtaki traffic measures

On Monday, the Transport Agency will close the SH1 southbound passing lane, north of Ōtaki, from 10am and will reopen at around 8pm, depending on traffic volumes.

Mr Owen says the closure of the passing lanes, which is supported by the Police, is done to improve safety and traffic flows during the holiday peaks.

"Passing lanes work well when the traffic is free flowing, but when traffic is backed up, the extra lane gets exploited by queue jumpers.  When the queue jumpers try to merge back into the queue, it disrupts traffic flow, and can cause nose to tail crashes.”

"Closing passing lanes during holiday peaks actually means more vehicles get through and it’s safer for everyone.”

“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. If traffic remains heavy, passing lanes will remain closed longer until we are satisfied traffic flows have reduced.”

Mr Owen says the Transport Agency will be providing temporary traffic management measures, within the Ōtaki Township to improve traffic flow.  He says the Transport Agency will be monitoring the situation onsite and managing traffic measures dynamically depending on traffic flow.

Staying safe

Mr Owen says that it’s important to remember that we all play a part in making our roads safer for everyone using them and urges motorists to share the driving if possible, avoid alcohol before driving, get plenty of rest before a big trip and stop for regular breaks. When returning to Wellington, Levin is a good spot to stop for a rest before joining the heavy traffic north of Ōtaki.

“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 Easter.”

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.

For travel information visit @NZTAWgtn on Twitter or visit www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link)

The Transport Agency wishes everyone a safe Anzac break.

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