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Take time, take care this Queen’s Birthday weekend

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With traffic expected to be heavy north of Wellington over Queen’s Birthday weekend, the NZ Transport Agency is urging motorists to plan ahead for safer and stress-free journeys.

Many Wellingtonians will be packing their bags and heading out of town, and NZ Transport Agency Acting Regional Performance Manager Neil Beckett is urging drivers to take care on long journeys, and particularly on unfamiliar routes where the driving conditions and terrain may be different.

“This is the last public holiday for a while, and we’re expecting a lot of people will be seizing the opportunity for a break, and that means heavy traffic. We’re expecting lots of traffic leaving the Capital tomorrow, then returning on Monday, and we remind holidaymakers that preparing for your journey can help you avoid problems when you’re on the road,” Mr Beckett said.

“Check what you’re getting into before you hit the road – have a look at our traffic cameras(external link) to see how traffic is flowing, and visit our website(external link) for information about traffic conditions, delays or closures.  Consider leaving a little earlier so you can dodge the rush – which means you can get to your holiday destination earlier to relax.”

Mr Beckett says the Transport Agency is supportive of the Police’s ‘Make it to Monday’ campaign, which aims to repeat last year’s zero road toll over Queens Birthday Weekend.
“Several factors combine to make holiday periods potentially risky.  More vehicles on the road, driver fatigue and other stressful things like traffic jams, noisy children and general tiredness—all these combine to make our roads riskier during the holidays.”

“The weekend also sees the arrival of winter, which means you’re more likely to encounter icy, wet or windy driving conditions.”

“By staying alert, driving to the conditions, and giving the road the attention and respect it deserves, you can increase safety for you and your passengers.”

What motorists should be aware of (Further details outlined below)

  • Passing lane closures on SH1 north of Otaki

-      Temporary 70kmph speed limit northbound on SH1 past Poplar Avenue, just south of Paraparaumu
-       Drive carefully through new Otaihanga roundabout layout at the intersection on SH1 between Paraparaumu and Waikanae
-         Temporary traffic measures at Otaki to assist traffic flow
-       Take care on the SH2 Rimutaka Hill Road

Passing lane closures

During peak travel times, the Transport Agency will be closing the SH1 northbound passing lanes north of Te Horo, as well as the southbound passing lane, north of Otaki.

The closure of the northbound passing lanes will take effect from around 10am on Friday 30 May and reopen at approximately 8pm, depending on traffic flows.  

On Monday 2 June, the Transport Agency will close the SH 1 southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, from around  10am and will reopen them at approximately 8pm, depending on traffic volumes.

Mr Beckett says the closure of the passing lanes, which is supported by the Police, is done to improve safety and traffic flows when the roads are under heavy demand.

"Passing lanes are great when the traffic is free flowing and motorists have more discretion over their travel speeds. But when traffic is bumper to bumper, it’s like having two queues for the same bank teller. You’d be quite rightly annoyed to be stuck patiently in traffic and see someone sail past you in the passing lane.

"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.”

Other traffic advice

Mr Beckett says it is crucial that motorists observe the temporary speed limit on SH1 past Poplar Ave just south of Paraparaumu, where Expressway construction is underway, and drive with care around the new Otaihanga Roundabout between Paraparaumu and Waikanae.

“We need to ensure that locals and our Expressway workers are kept safe at this site, and we ask people to strictly observe the 70km/h limit past Poplar Ave.

“People are still getting used to the new Otaihanga Roundabout and some people will be using it for the first time, so we ask that drivers take extra care as mistakes are more likely during the teething stage.”

Mr Beckett says that if required due to heavy traffic, the Transport Agency will be providing temporary traffic management measures, within the Otaki Township, to improve traffic flow, including local traffic diversions to minimise the merging of traffic at the roundabout. 

This includes closing Mill Road and banning traffic from turning out of Mill Road onto the highway or Rahui Road. Traffic will be allowed to turn onto Mill Road from SH1 or Rahui Road.

Parallel parking spaces on SH1 outside the shops will be made longer to make it easier and quicker for drivers to park and to minimise traffic queues.

And if people are heading to or from Wairarapa, the Transport Agency is urging care on the SH2 Rimutaka Hill Road.

“Please drive with caution in the Rimutakas, because it may be extra busy with people heading to and from the Wairarapa for their breaks. Check our website for weather and wind warnings, and take extra care on motorcycles, bikes or high-sided vehicles when the wind is up.”

Mr Beckett says there are plenty of ways for the public to keep up to date with traffic conditions so they can make informed travel choices and reduce the chance of hitting trouble on the highway. People can check the Transport Agency’s website(external link) for travel information before heading out, they can call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS, and can also subscribe for email updates at www.onthemove.govt.nz(external link)

Getting there in one piece

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.  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 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.  And 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.  And remember that the laws about child restraints changed on 1 November, so children must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint until their 7th birthday.

Mr Beckett says that it’s important to remember that we all play a part in making our roads safer for everyone using them.

“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 Queens Birthday.”

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

For more information please contact:

Anthony Frith
Media Manager – Central
NZ Transport Agency
T04 894 5251
M: 027 213 7617
E: anthony.frith@nzta.govt.nz

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