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 further heavy rain and strong winds have been forecast for parts of the weekend.

Brake’s ABC advice:

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

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: “Every year lives are torn apart by crashes, so we’re calling on drivers to do everything possible to avoid tragedies over the long weekend. Over the last few days there have been a number of crashes as a result of heavy rain and slippery surfaces, and the forecast bad weather for parts of the country adds to the risks when out on the road, so it is essential that drivers are prepared for the conditions, drive carefully, and avoid taking risks which could result in tragedy. Heavy rain and high winds make driving incredibly risky; stopping distances double in the wet, and if you can’t see clearly you can’t react to hazards. We are urging drivers to be prepared, make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and you check it before setting off. If you get caught out by the weather the most critical thing is to slow right down and keep your distance so you have time to stop in an emergency. Following our simple Pledge also helps drivers to protect themselves and others, and avoid situations that put lives at risk.”

Brake is calling on members of the public to play their part in making roads safer by getting involved in Road Safety Week 2015 (4-10 May). The theme for the Week is ‘look out for kids’ focusing on protecting some of our most vulnerable road users, children. To find out more and register to be part of the Week, go to www.roadsafetyweek.org.nz.

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