Winter officially starts on Sunday (1 June) and as its arrival coincides with the long Queen’s Birthday weekend, the NZ Transport Agency is reminding drivers in Canterbury and the West Coast to plan ahead and take extra care on the roads.
The Transport Agency’s Journey Manager Lee Wright says the start of winter is a timely safety reminder that the shorter days and unpredictable weather can make driving more of a challenge, particularly on the alpine passes where motorists need to watch for shady areas and frost.
“Everyone should allow plenty of time to reach their destination safely and check that their vehicle is winter fit.”
Ms Wright says with the State highways expected to be busier than usual with people taking advantage of the last long holiday weekend until spring, extra care is needed.
“Even greater care is required tomorrow (Saturday 31 May) on rural roads in dairy areas when thousands of farm animals and hundreds of households will be on the move in what is called Gypsy Day, the day farms change hands and sharemilkers take up new contracts.
“Motorists are asked to be patient if they encounter a herd of cattle on the road. Please don’t use your car horn as it will spook stock and follow the instructions of farmers to get through quickly and safely.”
She says motorists are also urged to take extreme care on the alpine passes. Arthur’s Pass is down to a single lane west of the Otira township with last week’s massive slip. Everyone driving through this area is asked to observe the 30km/h speed restriction and be courteous to other traffic.
“Haast Pass and Lewis Pass can also be treacherous at this time of the year, with rain, snow and frost on the road. We urge everyone to slow down and drive to the conditions in these areas.”
Motorists are reminded that access through Haast Pass at the Diana Falls slip site remains single-lane and the highway is subject to ongoing closures with heavy rain in the area.
State Highway 6, from Haast township to Makarora, continues to be closed every night from 5pm to 9am. “If travelling through the area, motorists need to be aware there are manned road blocks at Haast township and Makarora. Traffic is released both sides at 8.30am; the highway closing each day at 4pm at Haast township and 4.30pm at Makarora.
“North of Kaikoura work continues on the repair of a number of slips that occurred during the Easter break and motorists are asked to slow down and observe speed restrictions along this coastal area of State Highway 1 for the safety of everyone, including the contractors on site.”
In Christchurch, Ms Wright says motorists are reminded Queen’s Birthday also marks the staging of the annual Christchurch Marathon on Sunday 1 June and there will be a number of road closures from 3am to 4pm on roads in the area around the Christchurch International Airport.
To check what roads are closed and from what time, visit the www.transportforchristchurch.govt.nz(external link) website.
The Transport Agency is also asking motorists to go online and have a look at the checklist of basic safety items to help ensure their vehicles are up to scratch before hitting the road this weekend.
The checklist(external link) provides tips for checking tyres, windscreens (wipers and mirrors), indicators, rust and lights.
The Transport Agency is also offering a range of options to help drivers plan their journeys:
For more information please contact:
Media Manager - Christchurch
NZ Transport Agency
T: 03 964 2885
M: 021 427 442