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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

With frosty, slippery conditions on South Island/Te Wai Pounamu highways this first week of the school holidays, it is disappointing that Southern Police are finding people driving too fast, says NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA).

“A concerning number of motorists received an infringement notice as they were seen to be travelling more than 20km/h above the speed limit on roads surrounding Cromwell, Ōmarama, Twizel, and Queenstown,” say the Southern Police.

Many people are exploring unfamiliar roads enjoying the snow in the south, says Nicole Felts, Journey Manager for NZTA in Otago and Southland.

“Please drive to the conditions and make it a memorable holiday for the right reasons. Visibility and having a clear windscreen is a priority, particular in situations where there can be sunstrike.”

Slowing down and anticipating slippery surfaces on bridge decks, corners and areas that miss out on the sun in winter are habits all drivers need to practise, she says.

“It is great to see tourist numbers boosting many small towns, but we all need to be aware that many drivers are out of familiar territory and everyone needs to build in patience. Give other drivers a bit more space and keep the stress on the highways to a minimum.”

MetService also drew attention this week to the many valleys where fog gathers and can make surfaces greasy for much of the day with little solar penetration.

Bluebird skies and light winds mean that many skifields will be busy, so build in extra time, check the NZTA traffic and travel pages or Queenstown Lakes District Facebook before heading out and be well prepared, says Miss Felts.

The passes will be slippery

Places like the Milford Road (SH94), the Lindis Pass connecting Otago and Canterbury, Burkes Pass in South Canterbury and the Arthur’s Pass and Porters Pass routes linking the West Coast and Canterbury are places where slippery conditions will prevail this week. The route into Dunedin from the north over the Leith Saddle is frequently slippery in the morning, as is SH88 out to Port Chalmers on the west side of the harbour.

Tips for a safe journey these school holidays

  • Drive slower than you normally would – it only takes a split second to lose control in wet or icy conditions.
  • Avoid sudden braking or turning movements that could cause you to skid. 
  • Accelerate smoothly and brake gently. 
  • Use your highest gear when travelling uphill and your lowest downhill. 
  • For vehicles without anti-skid braking systems, to avoid skidding or sliding, smoothly pump the brake pedal in short bursts rather than pressing long and hard. 
  • Drive at a safe travelling distance because it takes longer to stop on slippery roads. 
  • In winter, especially in frosty or icy weather, double the two-second rule and leave a safe distance between you and the car you’re following. 
  • When travelling in fog, rain or snow, drive with your lights dipped for increased safety.
  • Make sure everyone is wearing their seat belt throughout the full journey. 
  • Plan your trip to avoid the coldest times of the day or night if you can.

More information

Advice and videos to help you fit snow chains(external link)

Check the weather conditions and advice from MetService(external link)

Journey Planner(external link)

Queenstown Lakes District local roads (including the Crown Range between Queenstown and Wānaka)(external link)

More winter driving tips