KiwiRAP

WHAT SHOULD DRIVERS DO WHEN ON A HIGH RISK
STRETCH OF ROAD?

Drivers must always take care regardless of the road they are driving on. It is always important for drivers to adapt their driving to respond to the conditions they face on any stretch of road.

Roads that have been highlighted in this report as being least safe are likely to have unique reasons for why they have low safety ratings. Drivers must consider what the contributing factors are that make a particular stretch of road less safe. This will assist drivers in deciding how best to respond to the conditions of the road and environment—remembering that the road, vehicle speed and driver each contribute to a safe road system.

Variables to always keep in mind when driving, especially on roads with a lower Star Rating, include:

The Road

Because roadside features—such as trees and ditches—can be unforgiving in an accident, this can make a section of road less safe.

Drivers and passengers face an increased risk of a head-on crash when travelling on undivided roads, particularly if these roads have high traffic flows.

Roads with a high number of connecting intersections also increase risk, as traffic travelling at different speeds merge and cross.

Removing roadside hazards, and introducing engineering features such as guardrails and median barriers, can make a section of road more forgiving—and safer—in an accident.

Speed

A reduced speed is required on winding roads, sharp corners, steep gradients and gravel surfaces. As road conditions worsen, drivers need to reduce their speed so that they remain in control.

The Weather

Rain instantly reduces tyre grip. When driving too fast on a section of road with ice, it is very easy to lose control. Wind gusts can side-swipe a vehicle unexpectedly, while sun glare or fog can blind a driver.

Drivers need to drive to the conditions and alter speed in poor weather. If weather conditions make safe driving challenging, drivers should consider rescheduling their journey, and travel only if it is really necessary.

The Traffic

Peak hour, holidays or special events can impact traffic flow. Drivers need to adjust to the reduced flow, avoid risky overtaking and keep a safe following distance. There are situations when travelling at the speed limit is simply not the safe option. A reduced speed may be necessary.

The Unexpected

Children stepping out without looking, heavy vehicles pulling onto the road, livestock and road works can be an unexpected surprise. It is up to drivers to be vigilant and to reduce speed so there is time to react safely should the unexpected happen.

The Vehicle

Drivers and owners of any vehicle must ensure the vehicle is in sound condition and ready for safe travel. This includes:

  • Warrant of Fitness
    Always ensure it is current; however, do not rely solely on a WoF as a guide to the vehicle’s current road worthiness
  • Tyres
    Regularly check all tyres (including the spare) for correct pressure and required tread
  • Lights
    Check often, as it is difficult to know if a light bulb has blown
  • Windscreen wipers
    Replace when worn, so they remain fit to effectively clean the windscreen
  • Windows and mirrors
    Keep them clean. A dirty windscreen can make it difficult for the driver to see clearly when hit with sun glare or oncoming headlights
  • ANCAP safety ratings
    Drivers should be encouraged to buy vehicles with good ANCAP safety ratings and features such as electronic stability control.


The Driver

Fatigue and sleepiness are a potential major hazard. Drivers should schedule a break at least once every two hours, or whenever they begin to feel sleepy.

Drivers are recommended to find the safest place to pull over, and preferably get out of the vehicle for a break. Taking or walk or trying some other some form of exercise can help increase alertness.

A break may also entail a nap in the driver’s seat. A nap for up to 40-minutes can be refreshing; however, any longer can leave a driver feeling groggy and disoriented for up to 10- to 15-minutes after waking up. Prior to taking a nap, drivers should lock the doors and windows and even phone someone to let them know where they are.

Remember, a nap is not as regenerative as a good night’s sleep. A rested and alert driver can adjust better to the conditions as well as the errors of other drivers. If a driver has any doubts, they should not drive.

No matter whether the trip is long or short, drivers need to be objective about their fitness to drive. If they do not feel up to it, the trip should be postponed or someone else should take over the driving responsibility.

Driving requires a high level of concentration and focus, so drivers need to minimise distracting activities such as eating or tuning the radio to another station.

Drivers must constantly be aware of the environment—road, weather and other drivers—and this may include searching for a possible escape route to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle. Distractions will hinder that process.

Related Links

The safe road system

What do drivers think?

How can engineering make our roads safer?