The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is reminding drivers in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions to drive to the conditions in the coming months as winter settles in. For road travellers, winter (usually between June and August) can be the most dangerous time of the year. The NZTA is also expecting higher traffic volumes during Queens Birthday this weekend, with the three-day break being the last significant public holiday until Labour Weekend in October.
"Motor vehicle crashes can be more likely to happen in wet weather, fog, ice and these can have serious consequences," says NZTA Highway Network Operations Manager, Karen Boyt. "Driving conditions are much more challenging during winter and some weather events can be unpredictable, so conditions can change very quickly."
Ms Boyt says those heading away on the holiday weekend should plan their journeys carefully, check the weather forecast and road conditions before they travel and think about the route they'll be taking. "Choose safety over convenience," says Ms Boyt. "The NZTA has plenty of free information available to help people with this - either online or through our freephone service. A copy of our free 'Safer Winter Driving' pamphlet can be printed off from our website's leaflets and brochures page - or pick up a copy from our offices or from councils around the region."
Ms Boyt says it's important that drivers remember to always drive to the conditions. This means drivers need to reduce their speeds and allow greater following distances on frosty and wet days; avoid towing in icy conditions; and where possible avoid driving at night when hazards can multiply. "Keep your headlights on day and night, particularly in low visibility conditions such as fog, to make yourself visible to others.
Regular maintenance of vehicles is also a key factor contributing to safety on the road. "Good tyres are essential at all times and especially if you have to stop quickly," says Ms Boyt. "Check your tyres, brakes, windscreen wipers, lights and steering and ensure your vehicle has a current Warrant of Fitness."
Ms Boyt says that incidents can happen unexpectedly on our roads during these harsher months. "Take note of emergency road closed signs and barriers if you come across them during your journey. Above all - keep an eye on your speed and stay alert." The latest travel info is available online at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) or by phoning the freephone on 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).