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Your Wellington guide to holiday travel this long weekend

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You can’t guarantee the weather will be perfect or that your kids will behave. However, the Transport Agency says Wellington motorists can take steps to make their journeys more enjoyable and safe by planning ahead this Queen’s Birthday Weekend

Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen says if holidaymakers plan ahead by checking weather and traffic conditions before they hit the road, they’re less likely to encounter any unwelcome surprises along the journey.  

Mr Owen says heavy traffic is expected out of the city on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and back into the city on Monday.

“People often embark on their journeys after work, so people will often hit traffic on the Coast Road where the highway narrows to one lane each way.  Leave a little extra time up your sleeve, that way you can relax a little more and enjoy the journey.”

“With winter about to begin, people need to be extra vigilant about wet or icy roads. This means  drivers need to slow down, watch their following distances, take care when passing and taking corners and drive to the conditions.”

Mr Owen says it is also crucial motorists ensure their vehicles are winter-ready.

He urged motorists travelling south on SH 1 to be aware of queues north of Ōtaki on Monday.

“The biggest queues usually eventuate on Monday afternoon and early evening, as traffic builds on State Highway 1 north of the Ōtaki Roundabout.

“If you’re driving south through Ōtaki on Monday, you’re likely to hit heavy traffic from mid-afternoon onwards.  We advise motorists to expect heavy delays, and to perhaps stop in Foxton or Levin for a break beforehand. Alternatively, you could hit the highway before lunchtime and dodge the delays.”

Mr Owen says the Peka Peka to Ōtaki section of the Kāpiti Expressway will provide a permanent solution to this ongoing source of frustration for motorists.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel – construction of the northern section of the Kāpiti Expressway, which includes a bypass of Ōtaki, is expected to begin next year and the problem will become a thing of the past when the project is completed.”

Mr Owen says traffic measures will be in place to assist traffic flow in Ōtaki (further info below), but delays remain likely when the afternoon influx hits.

Mr Owen reminds motorists that 70km/h speed limits are in place on the motorway south of Ngauranga, and on SH1 past Poplar Avenue.

Passing lane closures and Ōtaki traffic measures

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 Ōtaki.

The closure of the northbound passing lanes will take effect from about 10am Friday and Saturday. They will be reopened when traffic eases.

On Monday, the NZ Transport Agency will close the SH1 southbound passing lane, north of Ōtaki, from 10am and will reopen at 8pm, depending on traffic volumes. If traffic remains heavy, passing lanes will remain closed longer until we are satisfied traffic flows have reduced.

Mr Owen says the closure of the passing lanes, which is supported by the Police, is done to improve safety and traffic flows during the holiday peaks.

"Passing lanes work well when the traffic is free flowing, but when traffic is backed up, the extra lane gets exploited by queue jumpers.  When the queue jumpers try to merge back into the queue, it disrupts traffic flow, and can cause nose to tail crashes.

"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 the Transport Agency will be providing temporary traffic management measures, within the Ōtaki Township to improve traffic flow.  He says the Transport Agency will be monitoring the situation onsite and managing traffic measures dynamically depending on traffic flow.

For travel information visit @NZTAWgtn on Twitter, visit www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link),  Transport for Wellingto(external link)n, or sign up to www.onthemove.govt.nz(external link) for up-to-date information on what is happening on the route you plan to travel. Freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS for national and regional travel updates.


Staying safe

Mr Owen says that it’s important to remember that we all play a part in making our roads safer for everyone using them and urges motorists to share the driving if possible, avoid alcohol before driving, get plenty of rest before a big trip and stop for regular breaks. When returning to Wellington, Levin is a good spot to stop for a rest before joining the heavy traffic north of Ōtaki.

“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 weekend.”

NZ Transport Agency’s top winter driving tips:

  • Slow down. It only takes a split second to lose control on a wet road. Keeping your speed at 10kmh below the legal limit will greatly reduce your risk of a crash.
  • Stopping distances can nearly double on wet roads. Keep at least a 4 second following distance between you and the vehicle in front.
  • Sunstrike is most likely to hit you at sunrise or sunset. Keep your windscreen clean – inside and out – and be ready to use  your sunglasses or sun visors. If you can’t see, pull over and wait till you can.
  • Black ice or frost can make roads very slippery – on winter mornings and wherever it’s shady.
  • Turn on your lights whenever there’s heavy cloud cover, fog or rain. You’ll be much more visible to other road users and you’ll probably be able to see better too
  • Take extra care to watch for motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – especially at intersections and pedestrian crossings. Check carefully, then check again. Have your foot ready over the brake, and watch for pedestrians about to cross.

The NZ Transport Agency’s checklist for a winter-ready vehicle:

  • Get your vehicle checked out now. Good tyre tread depth, lights, brakes, cooling systems, demisters, wiper blades and batteries are all doubly important for winter driving. Check that your spare tyre and tools are all in good condition too.
  • On wet or frosty mornings, clean your windscreen and windows – inside and out – before you even set out. Keep a cloth and some window cleaner in the car to clean away any grime or condensation. Clean windscreens will also help if you get hit with sunstrike.
  • Allow a few extra minutes for your demister to do its job. Make sure you don’t head off until you can see clearly out of both windscreens, all your windows, and your rear and side-view mirrors.
  • Make sure people can see you. Check that all your lights are working properly. Get them on early and turn them off late, or keep them on whenever you’re driving. You’ll be much more visible to other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians – especially at intersections – and you’ll probably be able to see better too.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. Carry warm clothes, sturdy footwear, food, a torch and a first aid kit.

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

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