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Drive safely these holidays

15 December 2004

Drive safely these holidays

The Christmas-New Year holiday period can be a particularly dangerous time on New Zealand roads. Over the past five years there have been an average of 18 deaths and 390 injuries from road crashes over the Christmas-New Year period. Crashes occur in high numbers over the holiday period for several reasons:

there is more traffic on the road during the holidays many people are driving on unfamiliar roads many people are driving long distances and become easily tired or frustrated driving can be stressful due to heat, noisy children, family tensions and general end-of-year tiredness drivers may be fatigued from driving long hours or at abnormal times such as early morning or late evening people on holiday can let down their guard when it comes to road safety - i.e driving too fast, not wearing a safety belt, etc there is an increased incidence of drink-driving during holiday periods.

But driving during the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful or dangerous. By planning ahead, packing and preparing properly and allowing plenty of time for long trips you can help ensure your safety on the road.

Land Transport New Zealand has compiled the following tips and advice to help improve your chances of having a truly safe and happy holiday.

Vehicle preparation and packing Have your vehicle checked before travelling. Many garages offer safety checks for tyre tread and pressure, lights, brakes, cooling systems and other components. Make sure everything is securely stowed when you pack your vehicle. Even small objects can become dangerous missiles in the event of a sudden stop or a crash. If you’re towing a trailer or caravan, load heavy objects evenly over all of the axles.

Trailers and caravans

Check all towing attachments and make sure the couplings are compatible. Also remember to check the safety chain, trailer lights, tyres and brakes. Remember that if you are towing a trailer your maximum speed limit on the open road is 80 km/h. Keep left and pull over when it is safe to let other vehicles pass.

Driver fatigue Holiday driving often means spending several hours behind the wheel. Long journeys can be tiring, and fatigue can be fatal behind the wheel. There are some simple ways to avoid fatigue and improve your alertness:

Get plenty of sleep before your journey, and try to drive at times of the day when you are normally awake. Take your time and plan for rest breaks every couple of hours. Get out of your vehicle and take a short walk or do some other exercise to get your blood flowing and improve alertness. If you feel tired, take a short nap (less than 40 minutes). If possible, share the driving. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t speed. Many fatigue-related crashes also involve these two factors. Use air conditioning if your vehicle has it. Cool air will keep you more alert and will help avoid frustration and stress, which is a major cause of fatigue. Make sure your air conditioning is set to the "fresh air" mode.

Keep an eye out for kids Watch out for children on the road. Young cyclists and pedestrians can be unpredictable and they are poor judges of vehicle speed. Young children may also be learning to ride new bikes over the holidays. Please respect cycle lanes. Keep an eye out for learner drivers - the holidays are a popular time to learn to drive.

Keep your cool Driving can be a frustrating experience at the best of times. Add in busy roads and stifling heat and your patience can evaporate very quickly. For safety’s sake don’t let that happen. There are simple and easy ways to keep your cool and stay in control:

Be courteous - let others merge into traffic and use your indicators before turning or changing lanes. Keep left unless passing. If you’re a slower driver, pull over when you can to let others pass. Be patient and don’t be provoked by other drivers' aggressive behaviour.

Buckle up Too many family holidays are marred by tragedy when a crash occurs and people aren’t properly restrained. It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that all passengers are wearing safety belts. The law requires children to be restrained in approved child seats suitable to their size and weight. There is a $150 fine for each person not buckled up.

Share the road Traffic volumes increase significantly during the holidays. You will have to share the road with other cars, as well as heavy trucks, buses, campervans and vehicles towing boats or caravans. Keep the following points in mind:

• Always keep a safe following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front. This gives you a safe stopping distance should the vehicle in front of you stop suddenly. • Be patient. Trucks and towing vehicles have lower speed limits. If you’re travelling behind a slower vehicle, wait for a passing lane or until you can see clear road ahead of you and enough space to overtake safely. After overtaking a larger vehicle, don’t slow down quickly or cut in too closely. Larger vehicles take a longer time to brake and you could end up getting hit from behind.

The official Christmas-New Year holiday period for 2004/2005 begins at 4 p.m. on Friday 24 December and runs through to 6 a.m. on Wednesday 5 January.

During the 2003/2004 holiday period there were 13 fatal crashes and 264 reported injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 13 deaths, 88 serious injuries and 325 minor injuries. The deaths included eight car and van passengers and five car and van drivers. The most common factors contributing to fatal crashes over the holiday period last year were drivers losing control, travelling too fast for the conditions, alcohol, fatigue, inattention and failure to give way.

Police will be out in force over the holiday period to deter unsafe driving which puts lives at risk, and to ensure that traffic flows smoothly and delays are kept to a minimum.

Historical Christmas-New Year road trauma statistics are listed on the following page.

ENDS

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