Winter Driving

Winter is here (in case the abundant snow hasn't alerted you to that fact), so now is the time to think about how you can stay safe when travelling. Check out these handy hints.

  • Ensure your vehicle is safe for winter driving, ie tyres properly inflated, windscreen wipers operational, fluids all topped up, brakes in good condition etc.
  • 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. For vehicles without anti-skid braking systems, pump the brake pedal in short rapid bursts rather than pressing long and hard to avoid skidding or sliding.
  • Use your highest gear when travelling uphill and your lowest downhill.
  • Drive at a safe travelling distance because it takes longer to stop on slippery roads. In winter, especially in poor 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 your cell phone is well charged - check your car charger also.
  • Have blankets, snacks and bottles of water ready in case of emergency or a breakdown.
  • Always carry vehicle chains when travelling the alpine passes. Make sure you know how to put them on!
  • In extreme weather and road conditions, ask yourself if you really need to travel.
  • Look out for shaded areas caused by tall trees where the roads freeze sooner and ice may not thaw during the day. Bridges could also stay slippery longer than other road surfaces.
  • Plan your travel ahead to minimise delays and reduce risks on our roads. Check weather and road conditions before you start on your trip.

Drivers are encouraged to make a habit of checking road conditions. The NZTA has several different options for travellers:

Please note the following information from the NZTA

Lewis Pass, SH7 - Change to traffic management

A change has been made to the way the Lewis Pass, SH7, will be managed over the winter months. It will either be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ rather than having the usual restrictions of ‘chains essential’ and ‘no towing’.

Many of the vehicles using the route, for example tour buses, may not be equipped to use chains or be able to use them easily and safely. “Crews will be working the route 24/7 over the winter months and will do their best to keep any closures as short as they can,” says NZ Transport Agency Journey Manager Tresca Forrester..

Chains may still be required when travelling on other South Island roads, for example Arthur’s and Porters Passes (SH73) and the Rahu Saddle near Reefton (SH7). Drivers will need to carry chains and know how to fit them.

Page reviewed: 15 Dec 2015 12:07pm