Are you and your vehicle both fit to drive this long weekend?

Road safety charity Brake is reminding drivers to keep road safety front of mind if they're travelling this Queen's Birthday weekend, and to ensure both they and their vehicles are fit to drive, to help keep themselves and others safe.

As many people head away for the long weekend, the charity is urging drivers to check their vehicles and to take particular care with winter conditions and reduced daylight.

With clear and sunny conditions forecast for many areas, lots of people are likely to take the opportunity to travel over the weekend, but Brake is reminding drivers with clear skies there is a risk from sunstrike and icy roads in parts of the country. In other areas, where rain is forecast, the wet weather can also result in poor driving conditions.

Brake's key advice for drivers:

  • Check your vehicle before setting off, including tyre tread and pressure, lights, oil and water levels, and windscreen wipers.
  • Avoid driving in treacherous conditions like ice, delay your journey if possible.
  • Slow down, put your lights on and increase your following distance where sunstrike, rain or icy roads may be a risk. Remember stopping distances are at least double in wet weather, and can be at least 10 times greater on icy roads.
  • Keep a careful look out for people on foot and bike.

Brake is also reminding drivers about basic key messages like wearing your seat belt, not using a mobile phone while driving and taking regular breaks on long journeys.

Last year four people were killed in crashes over the Queen's Birthday weekend. Brake is calling on drivers to follow its ABC advice for winter driving to help prevent further tragedies.

Brake's ABC advice:

Avoid driving in treacherous conditions. Avoid driving in bad conditions like heavy rain, strong winds, ice and snow. 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 and icy conditions. 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. In ice and snow your stopping distance can be at least ten times as far. 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: "We want everyone to enjoy the long weekend and get to their destinations safely, so we're reminding drivers that there are some key, simple things you can do to reduce risk. Fatigue is a risk, particularly on long journeys, so we're urging drivers to take regular breaks every two hours. Minimising distractions, ensuring everyone is wearing a seat belt, and keeping below speed limits is also vital.

"Winter weather and reduced daylight 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. Road crashes are devastating for families and communities, and drivers have a responsibility to do everything they can to keep themselves and other road users safe. Remembering key messages can help save lives."

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