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Enjoy the trip – drive safely these holidays

16 December 2005

Enjoy the trip – drive safely these holidays

The holidays are a time to relax, celebrate and enjoy life, but the Christmas-New Year period can also be a particularly dangerous time on New Zealand roads. On average, 16 people have been killed and another 415 injured during each of the past five holiday periods. Crashes occur in high numbers over the Christmas-New Year period for several reasons:

- traffic volume is heavier – more vehicles on the road means more risk of crashes
- many people are driving on unfamiliar roads
- fatigue sets in with people driving long hours or at abnormal times such as early morning or late evening
- driving can be stressful and frustrating due to heat, traffic jams, noisy children, family tensions and general end-of-year tiredness
- 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 if you take a little time to make sure that you and your vehicle are safe before hitting the road. Plan ahead, schedule rest stops and allow plenty of time – make the journey part of the holiday.

Follow the tips and advice compiled here by Land Transport New Zealand – they’ll help keep you and your family safe on the roads these holidays.


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 90 km/h. Keep left and pull over when it is safe to let other vehicles pass.

Fatigue
Holiday driving often means spending many hours behind the wheel. Long trips are tiring, and fatigue can be deadly 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 of the holidays 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. Drivers are legally responsibility for making sure that passengers under the age of 15 are securely restrained with either a safety belt or child restraint. The law requires children under five to be properly restrained by an approved child restraint 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 2005/2006 begins at 4 p.m. on Friday 23 December and runs through to 6 a.m. on Wednesday 4 January.

During the 2004/2005 holiday period there were nine fatal crashes and 309 reported injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 11 deaths, 96 serious injuries and 417 minor injuries. The deaths included three drivers, seven passengers and one pedestrian. 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

Year Deaths Injuries
1980 / 81 32 481
1981 / 82 35 602
1982 / 83 18 473
1983 / 84 17 523
1984 / 85 13 439
1985 / 86 25 532
1986 / 87 31 554
1987 / 88 22 544
1988 / 89 16 594
1989 / 90 19 596
1990 / 91 18 487
1991 / 92 17 537
1992 / 93 29 528
1993 / 94 17 372
1994 / 95 19 542
1995 / 96 26 598
1996 / 97 14 432
1997 / 98 26 387
1998 / 99 24 391
1999 / 00 17 398
2000 / 01 20 409
2001 / 02 21 417
2002 / 03 17 323
2003 / 04 13 408
2004 / 05 11 513

ENDS

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