Put road safety first this long weekend, says charity

Road safety charity Brake is appealing to drivers to keep road safety front of mind if they're travelling this Waitangi weekend, and to commit to giving the road their full attention to keep themselves and others safe.

As many people head away for the long weekend, the charity is urging drivers to check their vehicles before setting off, and to take particular care in areas where heavy rain has been forecast for parts of the weekend.

Brake's ABC advice:

Avoid driving in treacherous conditions. Avoid driving in bad conditions like heavy rain. Delay your journey or use alternative modes of transport if possible.

Be prepared. Make sure your vehicle is well maintained. Before setting off do a walk round check of your vehicle:

  • Check your tyres have a tread depth of at least 3mm. Any less than that is particularly dangerous in wet weather. Also check tyre pressure and look for any cracks or bulges that may indicate a problem with the tyre.
  • Check your lights are clean and are working.
  • Check oil and water levels, and that other fluids such as power steering, windscreen washer and brake fluid, are well above minimum levels before setting off on a long journey.
  • Check wiper blades are in full working order and are clearing the windscreen.

Check forecasts and plan your route to avoid roads likely to be more risky, and allow plenty of time. Carry an emergency kit with a torch; cloths; food and drink; first-aid kit; warning triangle and high-visibility vest in case you get stuck. Always take a fully charged phone in case of emergencies, but don't be tempted to use it when driving.

Careful and cautious driving. If you do get caught out driving in treacherous conditions, you need to slow right down to increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front. In rain your stopping distance at least doubles, so keep at least a four second gap between you and the car in front. Keep a careful look out for people on foot and bikes who may be harder to spot. Avoid harsh braking and acceleration and carry out manoeuvres slowly and with extra care.

Brake is also urging drivers not to take risks on the road and to follow its Pledge for safe driving:

Slow: Drive within speed limits, drive at 30km/h or lower in communities, and slow down on rural roads too. Avoid overtaking unless you're sure it's safe.
Sober: If driving, don't drink any alcohol, or take any illegal drugs or medication that could affect driving.
Sharp: Drive alert - not tired, ill or stressed. Get a good night's sleep before driving and take breaks every two hours. Have an eye test at least every two years and wear glasses or contact lenses if needed.
Silent: Phone off or on message service. Minimise other distractions such as sat nav/GPS and tuning the radio as much as possible.
Secure: Always belt up and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does the same and adjusts head restraints. If travelling with children, ensure you have correctly fitted, appropriate child restraints. Ensure your vehicle is well-maintained and serviced.
Sustainable: Only drive when you have to.

Caroline Perry, Brake's New Zealand director said: "Driving is the riskiest thing most of us do regularly and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep ourselves and others safe on the roads. That means checking your tyres and doing other vehicle checks regularly before setting off and keeping below speed limits, taking regular breaks and avoiding distractions on your journey. Heavy rain adds to the risk, so it's essential that drivers are prepared for the conditions and avoid taking risks that could result in tragedy. Your stopping distances double in the wet, and if you can't see clearly you can't react to hazards. Road crashes are devastating for families and communities, so we're urging drivers to do everything possible to ensure that they, and other road users around them, get to their destination safely."

Brake is calling on members of the public to play their part in making roads safer by getting involved in Road Safety Week 2016 (16-22 May). The theme for the Week is 'Step up for road safety'. To find out more and register to be part of the Week, go to www.roadsafetyweek.org.nz.

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