Challenge: keep the road toll low

  • George Hawkins

New Zealanders are being challenged to make 2002 the year the country celebrates its lowest ever road toll.

Police Minister George Hawkins and Transport Minister Paul Swain issued the challenge on the Parliamentary forecourt today. They were assisted by Environment Minister Marian Hobbs, behind a seatbelt and at the reins of a Santa sleigh, complete with reindeer.

At 387 deaths to date compared with 431 at the same time last year, the country’s annual road toll is on track to be the lowest since 1964. The official 2001 road toll was 455.

The Christmas New Year holiday period begins at 4pm tomorrow, Christmas Eve, and will end at 6am, 3 January 2003. Last year 21 people lost their lives on the roads during the Christmas New Year holiday period.

“It’s therefore extremely important drivers take special care over the holiday period ,” said the Ministers.

As always drivers should avoid speeding, drinking and driving. Other simple measures to help stay safe these holidays include:

·making sure drivers get plenty of sleep before a journey and take rest breaks every couple of hours
·staying patient with trucks and towed vehicles – these have lower speed limits
·checking vehicles are safe before travelling
·making sure everything is securely stowed when packing vehicles
·staying courteous – let others merge into traffic
·indicating before turning or changing lanes.

A comprehensive list of LTSA safety tips accompanies this release.

Holiday driving - safety tips from the LTSA

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.
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, as per the graphic to the right.

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.
Keep an eye out for kids
Watch out for children on the road. Young cyclists and pedestrians can be unpredictable and 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.
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.

Drive safely these holidays!