Winter Driving

With this cold weather we’re currently experiencing, our West Coast highways are icing up, particularly in the mornings and night, and all drivers are encouraged to take care.

Please take note of the following tips from the NZTA to keep you safe in icy conditions:

Go slow on ice or snow.

Allow greater following distances and for much greater braking distances - avoid braking suddenly.

Look out for shaded areas caused by shelter belts/ 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.

Frost is more severe at daybreak, so be prepared for this after it becomes light. While it may not be icy at 6am, it could be an hour or two later. NOTE: Some of our blue pateye frost markers are broken and while we wait for replacements to arrive, please take extra care and don’t just rely on looking for the blue flashing light.

Motorists still need to be very careful, even if roads are covered with grit, which offers a 40 per cent improvement in skid resistance.

Is your journey really necessary? Observe road warnings and allow extra time for your journey.

Black ice, sometimes called clear ice, refers to a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface. The typically low levels of noticeable ice pellets, snow, or sleet surrounding black ice means that areas of the ice are often practically invisible to drivers.

In addition to the above, here are some hints with regards to travelling on the roads in winter:

  • 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.
  • 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:

Page reviewed: 29 Jun 2018 1:07pm