Drive safely in holiday traffic

More people will be on New Zealand roads during the summer holidays. Here are 8 tips to help you prepare for your trip and keep safe.

Kiwi summer holidays are known for their bumper-to-bumper traffic and increased car accidents. Here are 8 tips to help you prepare and keep safe.

As we head into the warmer months and summer holidays, many more road trips are being planned and taken. This means more cars on the road and a higher risk of accidents. Driving during busy periods, in particular, can be stressful because of increased traffic volumes, road congestion, tiredness, and people driving in unfamiliar environments.

Keep your cool by being courteous, remembering that you’re sharing the road with others, and sharing driving (or taking frequent breaks if you’re the only driver). We’ve put together a handy guide to help make sure your summer road trip is cool, calm, and collected, and to keep you and your vehicle occupants safe.

  1. Plan ahead

Before heading on your journey, plan your route and know what roads you’re going to take. Often, during holiday periods, passing lanes are closed to help reduce congestion and prevent further delays where the traffic merges at the end of lanes. You should prepare to take alternative routes if this is the case. Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has a useful traffic guide, so be sure to check it before heading off on your trip.

You should also map out where you can stop for fuel, food, and bathrooms, as well as safe rest stops along the way. Another important thing to check is the weather information, so you know what conditions you’re going to encounter on the road.

  1. Get plenty of sleep the night before

Being tired on the open road is dangerous, so it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. If you can, leave the following morning instead of later in the day after work – unless you’re planning on having plenty of stops. Try not to drink alcohol or take any intoxicants the night before.

  1. Share the driving

Fatigue-related crashes are more likely to occur if you’re driving alone, so if you’re able to share the drive with someone else, then do so. Make sure all drivers are well rested before you take off and plan a schedule for when you need to stop to switch drivers.

  1. Mind your speed

While you should always stay within the speed limit, it’s especially important to adhere to it during the busy holiday period. This gives you enough time to react to the traffic around you. You should also keep a safe following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. This will give you a safe stopping distance if they brake suddenly.

  1. Be alert

You should be mindful of what’s happening around you. Be particularly alert for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, as these road users have much less protection than you. Keep an eye out especially for cyclists if you’re travelling tourist routes during summer. And, if you’re cycling or motorcycling, make sure you’re visible and wearing proper protective gear.

While most roadworks are paused during busy holiday travel periods, you may still come across them on your drive. Be sure to adjust your speed to the temporary speed limit and be patient.

  1. Take regular breaks

It can be tempting to drive continuously without taking any breaks so you can get to your destination sooner. But this approach isn’t recommended as it can be dangerous. Experts suggest taking a break every two hours or every 200 km. Use the opportunity to grab some food, use the bathroom, have a little nap to rest your eyes, or even just stretch your legs. This will give you a much-needed energy boost until your next stop and helps stop you from becoming too tired, stiff, or achy.

  1. Check your trailers and caravans

Before driving off, you should check all towing attachments and make sure the couplings are secure and compatible. Don’t forget to check the safety chain, trailer lights, tyres, and brakes. Be sure to load heavy objects evenly over all of the axles.

Remember, if you’re towing a trailer, your maximum speed limit on the open road is 90km/h. Keep left and pull over when it’s safe to let other vehicles pass.

  1. Check your car

Repairs can be costly on the road. If your car is due for a service, get it done well before the trip. You should also do the following checks before heading off:

  • Oil levels – top up if it’s below the line.
  • Condition of your window wiper blades.
  • Windscreen washer fluid – top up if needed.
  • Tyre pressure – make sure all your tyres are pumped up.
  • Car lights and indicators – make sure these are working and bulbs don’t need replacing.

Are you insured?

Another thing you shouldn’t pass on is car insurance. Autolife offers Mechanical Repair Insurance that covers mechanical faults and repairs for events like steering problems, engine repairs, battery replacements, or auto-electrical issues. You’ll also have access to 24-hour roadside assistance and a free WOF inspection.

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