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Winter driving: time to get prepared, change to Lewis Pass (SH7) traffic management, on the Alternate Route Picton to Christchurch

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As winter approaches, it’s time for drivers to start preparing for winter driving, says NZ Transport Agency Journey Manager Tresca Forrester.

The Transport Agency’s Winter Journeys campaign aims to encourage drivers to be safe through planning ahead to reduce the risk of crashes.

“Pre-planning is essential if drivers want to enjoy safe travel and avoid delays caused by road restrictions, road closures or vehicle breakdowns,” she says.

Drivers using the alternate Picton to Christchurch route via St Arnaud and the Lewis Pass/ Murchison will need to allow extra time. “The route is challenging to drive, it is narrow and winding in many places, with single-lane bridges. People not used to driving in alpine conditions will need to ensure they know what to do.”

“Extreme weather conditions such as ice, snow, fog and wet weather can hit quickly so people need to be prepared and keep up to date with the latest weather reports,” says Ms Forrester.

Lewis Pass, SH7, change to traffic management

A change has been made to the way the Lewis Pass, SH7, will be managed over the winter months. It will either be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ rather than having the usual restrictions of ‘chains essential’ and ‘no towing’.

Many of the vehicles using the route, for example tour buses, may not be equipped to use chains or be able to use them easily and safely. “Crews will be working the route 24/7 over the winter months and will do their best to keep any closures as short as they can,” says Ms Forrester.

Chains may still be required when travelling on other South Island roads, for example Arthur’s and Porters Passes (SH73) and the Rahu Saddle near Reefton (SH7). Drivers will need to carry chains and know how to fit them.

Simple rules for safe winter travelling:

  • allow extra time
  • ensure your vehicle is safe for winter driving(external link)
  • drive to the road and weather conditions
  • slow down and be prepared for unexpected hazards
  • allow greater following distance between you and the vehicle ahead
  • make sure your cell phone is well charged, check car charger also
  • have blankets, snacks, bottles of water ready in case of emergency or a breakdown.

For more information on the Alternate Route/ Lewis Pass, please check this link(external link).

Direct link to FAQs on the Alternate Route here(external link)

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