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Transport Agency says plan ahead for long weekend travel

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With traffic expected to be heavy over Wellington Anniversary weekend, the NZ Transport Agency is urging motorists to plan ahead for safer journeys, and to be aware the likelihood of potential delays.

Many Wellingtonians will be packing their bags and heading out of town, and NZTA Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen is urging drivers to take care on long journeys, and particularly on unfamiliar routes where the driving conditions and terrain may be different

We're expecting large numbers of traffic leaving the Capital tomorrow, then returning on Monday, and it's important that motorists are patient and ready for the possibility of hold-ups when they set out on their journeys, Mr Owen said.

Several factors combine to make holiday periods potentially risky.  More vehicles on the road, driver fatigue and other stressful things like heat, traffic jams, noisy children and general tiredness—all these combine to make our roads riskier during the holidays.  Plus, people on holiday may be less vigilant about not drink driving, keeping to a safe speed, not driving when tired, and always buckling up.

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

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 10am on Friday 17 January and reopen at approximately 8pm  on Saturday 18 January, depending on traffic flows.  

On Monday 20 January, NZTA will close the SH 1 southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, from 10am and will reopen at 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 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. The reason we close them during the holiday rush is because when everyone's crawling, passing lanes can actually disrupt traffic flow by acting as a queue jumping device. It's not the vehicle in front of you that’s holding you up; it's the sheer volume of traffic on the roads.

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 NZTA will also 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.

Other measures to keep motorists safe and improve traffic flow during the weekend will include:

  • Waikanae speed reductions: From today (16 January) the 70km/h speed limit from just north of Hemi St, Waikanae to New World, Waikanae will be reduced to a 50km/h. This expands the existing 50km/h speed limit section through the Waikanae shops to just north of the Hemi St intersection. There have been several recent crashes at the intersections between the side roads and this section of SH1.
  • Otaihanga roundabout: There will be temporary traffic measures at SH1's Otaihanga Roundabout on Friday 17 to reduce congestion heading north. Right turns will be banned onto Otaihanga Road from the highway, and from the highway onto Otaihanga Road. Left turning lanes will remain operational. Local residents are asked to follow the signs and use Mazengarb and Ratanui Roads to head south. 

Mr Owen 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.  Driver fatigue was a factor in 32 road deaths and 141 serious injuries in 2011. 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.  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 Owen 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 summer.

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

For more information please contact:
Andy Knackstedt
Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency
T    +64 4 894 6285
M    64 212 763 222
andrew.knacktedt@nzta.govt.nz

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