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Waikato & BOP parents encouraged to prepare teen drivers
travelling to this year's Mountain Mardi Gras on Saturday

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The cold has arrived, and with snow blanketing many parts of the country it's a reminder that the winter festival season is just around the corner. The Mountain Mardi Gras at Ohakune this Saturday (23 June) is the first festival for the season and it's likely a large number of young people will be travelling by road from the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty regions to attend it.

Waikato and Bay of Plenty parents encouraged to prepare teen drivers travelling to this year’s Mountain Mardi Gras on Saturday The cold has arrived, and with snow blanketing many parts of the country it’s a reminder that the winter festival season is just around the corner. The Mountain Mardi Gras at Ohakune this Saturday (23 June) is the first festival for the season and it’s likely a large number of young people will be travelling by road from the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty regions to attend it.

Whether it’s this weekend’s event or others on the winter season festival schedule, it’s time for you as parents of teenagers to start thinking about how you can help your teen drivers prepare for a safe journey to and from their festival destination. Remember, it is not just advice for when they arrive at the event that is useful – guidance for the drive there and back is vital too.

For some teens, this will be their first experience of driving long distances in potentially wet and icy conditions – a stressful experience for both the driver and the parent waiting at home.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has created a dedicated website to help parents with teen drivers – www.safeteendriver.co.nz(external link) – which offers a set of practical skills and free tools to encourage parents to work alongside their teens to help identify and manage risk situations, when driving by themselves.

NZTA Acting State Highway Manager, Bryce Carter, says it’s always important for all drivers, not just teens, to focus on keeping speeds down, driving to the conditions, taking note of road signage and keeping an eye out for contractor vehicles operating on the roads during their journeys. “This is vital to remember when travelling to these winter festivals, as the weather at this time of year can make driving conditions even more challenging.”

“The Safe Teen Driver website not only provides useful festival hazard advice to discuss with your teen, it also suggests some different ways to talk about the risks so they don’t think you’re over-reacting,” says NZTA Acting State Highway Manager, Bryce Carter.

NZTA suggests the following tips for driving to the Mountain Mardi Gras at Ohakune on 23 June:

  • When travelling from Auckland or the Waikato to Mt Ruapehu, it is recommended for young drivers to use SH3 and SH4 to National Park. If using SH39 through Pirongia, be aware that this road is winding and narrow in places and does not have any passing lanes.
  • The alternative route is SH1, which has better roads, but the roads are busier.
  • Travelling from the Bay of Plenty down to Mt Ruapehu, usually people can take SH29 over the Kaimais. However, this weekend there are safety works being carried out on Saturday and Sunday (23 and 24 June), which means the road will be closed at Ruahihi Bluffs (17km west of Tauranga) between 7.30 am and 3.00 pm on Saturday, and 7.30 am and 5.00 pm on Sunday. A better option is SH2 to Paengaroa, SH33 to Rotorua, SH5 to Taupo, SH1 to Turangi, SH47 to National Park. The roads are good, but they can be busy.
  • SH1 the Desert Road is a section of road that is often closed in winter time due to snow. Review weather and road reports if you need to use this section of road and make sure your teen carries warm clothing, food, a charged mobile phone and blankets/sleeping bag in case they get stuck.
  • There’s often snow and ice on SH49 Ohakune in winter. Make sure your teen driver knows to take great care on this road in winter and checks the road and weather conditions before travelling to the event. Snow chains may be needed on this road so make sure your teen knows how and when to fit them.
  • There's often snow and ice on SH47/48 in winter. Shady spots may be wet and slippery even if the rest of the road is dry. Great care is needed on these roads. Make sure your teen checks the road and weather conditions before travelling to the event.
  • Whichever route your teenager takes, they’ll need to make sure they plan their route before they leave and allow for rest and refreshment stops on the way, as it’s a long drive. Fatigue can be an issue on the return trip, particularly if they have been skiing all weekend.
  • Some sections of the SH1 north of Taihape to south of Waiouru may not see the sun until late in the morning and can be icy even when the road appears to be dry and ice free elsewhere. Talk to your teen about safe driving in icy conditions and use the opportunity to increase their skills in the challenging conditions found on roads at altitude.
  • Check opening times and travel directions for the Manawatu gorge. There is no overtaking on this section of highway so your teen will need to be patient. If taking one of the alternative routes, they should take their time and be courteous.

Other key areas the NZTA encourages parents to discuss with their teen drivers includes:

  • Highlighting the best route and busy areas
    Where possible, parents should thoroughly plan their teen’s route with them, so they can concentrate on driving and not be distracted by navigating.
  • Planning ahead
    The www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) site lists current road conditions and any delays, hazards or closures on the state highway network.
  • The importance of getting enough sleep
    Even moderate sleep deprivation can be dangerous when driving.
  • Driving at night
    40% of crashes involving young drivers happen when it’s dark.
  • Driving with friends in the car
    When a young driver has two or more passengers in the car with them, they’re ten times more likely to have a crash than if they were driving alone. If those passengers are about the same age as the driver, the risk is more than fifteen times higher than if they were driving alone.

Please visit www.safeteendriver.co.nz/festivalmap(external link) for more tips on driving to specific festivals.

General winter driving tips for teens are also provided as an Appendix 1 below.

Statistics on teen drivers also provided below, in Appendix 2.

For more information please contact:

Glenda Dobbyn
Senior Communications Advisor
Engagement and Communications
Bay of Plenty
T:0 7 928 7908
M: 021 021 67217
E: glenda.dobbyn@nzta.govt.nz

APPENDIX 1: WINTER DRIVING TIPS FOR TEENS

Tips for teaching your teen to drive during the winter months:

DRIVE BY DAYLIGHT
Does your teenager know that driving at night requires more energy, concentration and experience? Encourage daytime driving when it is easier to spot hazards, visibility is better and there is less chance of ice and frost on the road.

SKID AWARENESS
Does your teenager know what causes a car to skid? Sudden braking, over-steering and driving unknowingly onto ice are just three reasons. Make sure they’re prepared and give them suggestions to avoid all these situations such as keeping a safe distance between cars, keep to the speed limit and looking for clues to spot ice. For example, patches of road that are shaded because ice in these areas may not thaw during the day, and can be hard to see when the rest of the road is in sunlight.

GEAR UP!
Winter driving increases the chance of ice, frost and snow on the road - things that could make your teenager lose control of their car. Inform them of ways to avoid this – like accelerating smoothly, brake gently and use higher gears when travelling uphill and a lower gear when downhill to help maintain tyre traction.

THE 4 SECOND RULE
Weather conditions can affect stopping distance – it takes longer for your teenager to stop on slippery, frosty roads. In winter, especially in poor weather, encourage your teen to double the two-second rule to create a safe distance behind the car they’re following.

LIGHTS ON, BUT DIP DOWN
When travelling in fog, heavy rain or snow, does your teenager know that they will actually have better visibility with their lights dipped? And if they’re driving in snow, make sure you have shown them how to use and fit snow chains.

SUN STRIKE SECRETS
Most teenagers love the sun, but do they know how to avoid sun strike? Sun strike is actually more likely to happen in winter, as the sun is lower in the sky. To help minimise the effects, tell your teenager to keep their windscreen clean (inside and out), wear sunglasses when driving and use the car’s sun visors to block it out. Let them know that sometimes the only safe thing to do is pull over and wait for a few minutes until the angle of the sun changes.

APPENDIX 2: STATISTICS RE TEEN DRIVERS

  • Data shows that New Zealand’s teen drivers are most at risk of having a serious crash in the first six to 12 months of driving solo on a restricted licence. They are more vulnerable on the road during this period than at any other time in their lives. Each year for the past five years there has been around 1300 crashes resulting in injury or death involving teen drivers on a restricted licence.
  • The key conditions of the restricted licence are:
    1. Restricted licence holders must not drive by themselves between 10pm and 5am. If they are going to drive between these times they must have a supervisor in the front passenger seat); and
    2. Restricted licence holders must not carry passengers unless they have a supervisor with them (subject to some exceptions for spouses and dependents).
  • When a young driver has two or more passengers in the car with them, they’re ten times more likely to have a crash than if they were driving alone. If those passengers are about the same age as the driver, the risk is more than fifteen times higher than if they were driving alone.
  • 40% of crashes involving young drivers (aged 15-24) happen when it’s dark.
  • Young drivers are disproportionately involved in crashes at night (particularly Friday and Saturday nights).
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