Inexperienced teen drivers doing the road trip to Ohakune's Ruapehu Mountain Mardi Gras this weekend need to exercise special caution, the New Zealand Transport Agency is warning.
The annual festival celebrating the opening of the ski season kicks off tonight and is expected to draw thousands of revellers from all over the country.
"For some teens, this will be their first experience of driving long distances in potentially wet and icy conditions - a stressful experience for both the driver and the parent waiting at home," said the transport agency.
With a special focus on Waikato and Bay of Plenty adolescents, NZTA said the roads would be wet and icy. Parents were encouraged to prep their teens before setting them lose.
NZTA Acting State Highway Manager Bryce Carter said it was important for all drivers, not just teens, to take heed of the warning.
"Keeping speeds down, driving to the conditions, taking note of road signage and keeping an eye out for contractor vehicles operating on the roads during their journeys.
"This is vital to remember when travelling to these winter festivals, as the weather at this time of year can make driving conditions even more challenging."
NZTA said younger drivers coming from Auckland or the Waikato should use SH3 and SH4 to National Park.
"If using SH39 through Pirongia, be aware that this road is winding and narrow in places and does not have any passing lanes."
The alternative route was SH1, which was busier but had better roads.
NZTA said those travelling from the Bay of Plenty should avoid taking SH29 over the Kaimais, as roadworks would see some of the roads closed at Ruahihi Bluffs.
"A better option is SH2 to Paengaroa, SH33 to Rotorua, SH5 to Taupo, SH1 to Turangi, SH47 to National Park. The roads are good, but they can be busy".
Police said the careful behaviour needed to extend to the streets of Ohakune.
Two Central District Booze Buses would be stationed there, and extra police would be brought in to monitor party goers. A strong police presence was expected there throughout the weekend.
A large police operation would be focused on driving, street disorder and bad drunken behaviour.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR ON THE HIGHWAYS
- SH1 the Desert Road is a section of road that is often closed in winter time due to snow. Review weather and road reports if you need to use this section of road and make sure your teen carries warm clothing, food, a charged mobile phone and blankets/sleeping bag in case they get stuck.
- There's often snow and ice on SH49 Ohakune in winter. Make sure your teen driver knows to take great care on this road in winter and checks the road and weather conditions before travelling to the event. Snow chains may be needed on this road so make sure your teen knows how and when to fit them.
- There's often snow and ice on SH47/48 in winter. Shady spots may be wet and slippery even if the rest of the road is dry. Great care is needed on these roads. Make sure your teen checks the road and weather conditions before travelling to the event.
- Whichever route your teenager takes, they'll need to make sure they plan their route before they leave and allow for rest and refreshment stops on the way, as it's a long drive. Fatigue can be an issue on the return trip, particularly if they have been skiing all weekend.
- Some sections of the SH1 north of Taihape to south of Waiouru may not see the sun until late in the morning and can be icy even when the road appears to be dry and ice free elsewhere. Talk to your teen about safe driving in icy conditions and use the opportunity to increase their skills in the challenging conditions found on roads at altitude.
- Check opening times and travel directions for the Manawatu gorge. There is no overtaking on this section of highway so your teen will need to be patient. If taking one of the alternative routes, they should take their time and be courteous.
- © Fairfax NZ News