Stay safe on the roads this Christmas

Many of us have already made our plans for the Christmas holidays and are looking forward to spending some quality time with our loved ones, and making the most of the opportunity to relax and hopefully enjoy some sunny summer weather – keep those fingers crossed!

There will already be plenty of Kiwis on the move as they escape the cities and head off to the baches on the beach and to spend time with family. Others will be enjoying the parties and holiday festivities that kick off this month and run throughout the summer.

Stay safe if you’re taking the car out and about over the holidays. Check your tyre pressure before embarking on a long journey to avoid blow outs and make sure your car’s radiator system is at the correct level so that the engine doesn’t overheat.

If there’s something that’s been niggling you about your motor over the winter months, it may well be a good time to book it in for a service but, if you’ve been shelling out on presents and food to stock the pantry, remember that AA Members get two free car safety checks each year.

With increased numbers of people – Kiwis and international visitors – expected on the road over the coming months, it would be a missed opportunity for us not to remind our Members of just a few of the basic rules to staying safe when driving.

Stay within the speed limits

In 2014, travelling too fast for conditions accounted for 29% of all fatal crashes on NZ roads. Adjust your driving to the conditions around you, and observe the advisory speed limits when taking bends. The slower you’re moving, the more time you’ll have to react to any potential hazards.

New Zealand Police have introduced a reduced speed threshold of 4km/h which is being enforced until 31 January 2016.

Stick to the left

Lack of control of your car can result in a failure to keep on the correct side of the road, but some people take chances simply because they think they know their local area. We all know that summer sees an increased volume of cars on the road and an influx of visitors, so why gamble?

Do not drink and drive

We don’t want to sound like a stick in the mud but, if you’re having a festive drink, the safest option is to not get behind the wheel at all. Alcohol and drug consumption accounted for nearly a quarter of all fatal accidents in 2014.

You may think you can handle one ‘standard drink’ but people’s individual alcohol tolerances are dependent upon different factors. That one drink may be the one that puts you and other road users at risk this Christmas.

Make the most of public transport, ask someone to pick you up, see if there’s a sober driver going to the same do… Just don’t drink and drive.

Take a break

If you’re driving long distances, make sure you factor in rest stops for the journey. Park up, grab some air or even take a nap if need be. Driver fatigue is a common cause of car accidents, and one that can be avoided by sharing driving duties with someone else, or taking a break every couple of hours.

Pay attention

New Zealand is a country that's undeniably filled with natural beauty and it’s easy to get distracted by the scenery that’s around us. However, it’s more important to pay attention to other drivers around you than it is the mountains on the side of the road.

Make sure there’s a safe distance between you and the car in front. The rule of thumb is a 2 second gap when conditions are dry and 4 seconds when they are wet.

Unless you’ve pulled over, don’t answer your phone and do not reply to that text, Facebook message or tweet.

Buckle up

Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up and ensure any children, infants or babies are in the right seat. You can be fined for not having a child in the correct seat but, worse still, it is dangerous. People who wear their seat belts have a much better chance of surviving a crash.

Be patient

In heavy traffic, people’s patience can be stretched. Just take a few deep breaths and drive to the traffic conditions.

Don’t overtake on yellow lines or on a bend. If you miss your exit, then carry on to a safe place and turn around. If you are running late, then don’t rush. It is better to be late and arrive in one piece than rush and not get there at all.

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