Drive safely these holidays
The Christmas holiday period is a particularly dangerous time on New Zealand roads. Over the past five years there have
been an average of 20 deaths and 385 injuries from road crashes over the Christmas-New Year period.
Crashes occur in high numbers over the holiday period for several reasons: there is more traffic on the road during the
holidays many people are driving on unfamiliar roads many people are driving long distances and easily become tired or
frustrated driving can be stressful due to heat, noisy children, family tensions and general end-of-year tiredness
drivers may be fatigued from driving long hours or at abnormal times such as early morning or late evening people on
holiday can let down their guard when it comes to road safety - i.e driving too fast, not wearing a safety belt, etc
there is an increased incidence of drink-driving during holiday periods.
But 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. The Land Transport
Safety Authority has compiled the tips and advice on the following pages - follow them and your chances of having a
truly safe and happy holiday will be increased.
Holiday driving - safety tips from the LTSA 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
• 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
• 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. 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.
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. 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.
The official Christmas-New Year holiday period for 2003/2004 begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday 24 December and runs through
to 6 a.m. on Monday 5 January. During the 2002/2003 holiday period there were 14 fatal crashes and 207 reported injury
crashes. These crashes resulted in 17 deaths, 76 serious injuries and 246 minor injuries. The deaths included: eight car
and van passengers; four car and van drivers; one motorcycle rider; one motorcycle pillion and two pedestrians. Fourteen
of the 17 deaths and nearly 60% of all the reported injuries in last year's holiday period occurred in open road
crashes. Ten deaths were in single vehicle crashes where a driver lost control or ran off the roadway. A further three
deaths involved head on collisions. The most common factors contributing to fatal crashes over the holiday period last
year were driving too fast for the conditions, alcohol and driver fatigue. Historical Christmas-New Year Road Trauma
Year Deaths Injuries
1980 / 81 32 481
1981 / 82 35 602
1982 / 83 18 473
1983 / 84 17 523
1984 / 85 13 439
1985 / 86 25 532
1986 / 87 31 554
1987 / 88 22 544
1988 / 89 16 594
1989 / 90 19 596
1990 / 91 18 487
1991 / 92 17 537
1992 / 93 29 528
1993 / 94 17 372
1994 / 95 19 542
1995 / 96 26 598
1996 / 97 14 432
1997 / 98 26 387
1998 / 99 24 391
1999 / 00 17 390
2000 / 01 20 409
2001 / 02 21 411
2002/ 03 17 322