Warning over holiday driving dangers

With the annual summer exodus to the beach about to begin, motorists are being warned to take care while driving this festive season.

With heavy traffic, driver fatigue, seemingly endless kilometres on unfamiliar roads, combined with a hot, sticky car, traffic jams and noisy children, frustration can quickly set in.

"All of these things can make holiday driving difficult, and everyone makes mistakes, but by planning ahead you can make things easier on yourself and make sure you get to your destination safely," the New Zealand Transport Agency's road safety director Ernst Zollner said.

"That means making sure your vehicle and its tyres are in good nick, avoiding alcohol, getting some rest before getting behind the wheel, and checking the latest road conditions before heading off."

The NZTA had also crunched data from last year's Christmas and New Year period to compile a list of likely holiday congestion hot spots to help drivers plan ahead to avoid the queues, Mr Zollner said. The maps are available on the NZTA website.

It came as both the police and the NZTA issued a holiday warning today, to help avoid that well-earned break turning into a Christmas nightmare.

With 280 people already killed on New Zealand roads so far this year, motorists were warned to "take your time, savour the experience, and survive to come back again".

"The ocean is not going to wash away the beach before you get there, so you are better off driving in a manner which helps everyone to reach the beach, or any other destination, safely," Bay of Plenty road policing manager Inspector Kevin Taylor said.

The official holiday road period starts at 4pm on Christmas Eve, and runs until 6am on Monday, January 5.

Last year's Christmas-New Year road toll was seven, from a total of 193 reported injury crashes.

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Top Tips for Holiday Driving:

* Plan ahead: Get your vehicle checked before you hit the road, map out your route, plan to avoid peak traffic where you can, and give yourself enough time to take plenty of rest or sightseeing breaks along the way. Check the weather conditions and fill your tank, don't forget to plan where you will re-fuel - both your car and its occupants - along the way.

* Drive to the conditions: This isn't just about weather conditions--it's about the road you're on, the traffic, your vehicle and load, your speed, your following distance, and adjusting your driving for wet and windy conditions.

* Watch out for fatigue: Long trips are tiring and fatigue can be deadly behind the wheel. Get a good night's sleep beforehand, plan in advance where you'll take breaks along the way, and be aware of any medication you're taking that might affect your driving.

* Keep your cool: Be courteous and patient while on the roads. Don't get provoked by other drivers' aggressive behaviour, and wait to overtake until you get to a passing lane or can see enough clear road ahead to do it safely. And be sure to take enough games, books, DVDs or electronics to keep the kids occupied along the way.

* Buckle up: If you're the driver, you are legally responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 15 are securely restrained with either a safety belt or child restraint. Children must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint until their seventh birthday.

* Don't drink and drive: The alcohol limit for adult drivers is now lower, and your judgement and reaction times begin to deteriorate after even one drink. Stick to a simple rule - if you're going to drink, don't drive.

* Keep an emergency pack, with water, snacks, warm clothing and a first aid kit in case of a breakdown. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged before setting off.

* For the latest travel information go to www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic or call the NZTA Freephone 0800 44 44 49.

* For a list of likely holiday congestion hot spots, click: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/current-conditions/docs/summer-holiday-p...

(Source: NZTA/Police)

By Patrice Dougan of NZME. News Service

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