You've booked Christmas holiday accommodation, aired the tent and arranged for neighbours, kennels and catteries to look after on your pets and home - but have you prepared your vehicles and yourself for safe travel on the roads?
Police throughout the Wellington District are urging motorists to plan ahead by: • getting vehicles including those towing boats, trailers or caravan up to spec before setting off • being patient on congested roads • ensuring you are rested before your trip and that you take regular breaks to avoid fatigue • avoiding alcohol if you are the driver • driving safely and being aware of other road users at all times.
Inspector Peter Baird, Road Policing Manager, said patrols from throughout the Wellington District (Wellington City Area, Porirua, the Kapiti Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa) are concentrating on the State Highways and main arterial routes.
"The two main State Highways will be clogged with traffic leading into Christmas Day," Inspector Baird said. "Some people have already left the region to head north, but the roads will be especially busy throughout Wednesday and into Boxing Day."
He said it's critical that drivers are patient, are prepared for some delays, and have some bottles of water on hand to keep themselves and passengers, especially children and animals, hydrated for their trip.
"We're expecting traffic to build up on the main highways from early Wednesday afternoon. Plan for delays, build in some extra time in your travel journey and keep your focus on the road," Inspector Baird said.
New Zealand Transport Agency Central Operations Manager Mr Mark Owen said road works on State Highways 1 and 2 finished at midday last Friday, 19 December. Work will generally not restart until Monday, 5 January 2009 to minimise any potential delays (excluding emergency maintenance).
The Lindale and Waikanae passing lanes on SH1 will be closed on Wednesday 24 December from midday for traffic leaving Wellington. These lanes will reopen on Boxing Day, Friday 26 December at approximately 4pm. This year for the first time NZTA also intends to close the passing lane north of Te Horo at the same time as this passing lane can lead to considerable delays during heavy traffic volumes.
After Christmas the passing lanes will be closed again for Wellington Anniversary Weekend. The three passing lanes listed above will be closed on January 16 from midday until mid-afternoon on Saturday 17, depending on traffic flows. The southbound passing lane north of Otaki will be closed on Monday, January 19 from midday until 9.00pm, depending on traffic flows.
Mr Owen said the closing and opening of the passing lanes is dependent on traffic flows. There may be some adjustments in timing.
Mr Owen said passing lanes are regularly closed because it produces a steadier flow of single lane traffic along the highway by reducing potential conflict at the merge point.
"This is critical at a holiday periods and long weekends like Anniversary Weekend," he said.
Inspector Baird said police throughout the Wellington District and beyond will be monitoring speed, alcohol, the use of seat belts and other car restraints, high risk offending such as dangerous overtaking, failing to keep left, poor intersection behaviour, careless driving and following too closely.
"Police can't stress enough how important it is to make sure that the driver is rested before setting out from home on their journey. Tired drivers are unsafe drivers," he said. "Check yourself and your car out so that you live to enjoy the holiday."
Inspector Baird urged travellers to take regular short breaks throughout the journey. "Some fresh air and a stretch of the legs helps keep the driver alert, and it's also good for the kids."
Avoiding fatigue is also important for commercial drivers and business people striving to meet last minute Christmas deadlines.
"We want people to arrive alive at their holiday destinations and to get safely home again. Keep within the speed limits, drive to the conditions, take regular breaks and pull over to let faster traffic past, especially if you are towing a trailer, boat or caravan."
Wellington Police District communications manager
tel: 04 496 3464