Caution urged on wet Easter roads
Transport officials are warning drivers to be careful on sodden roads as they head away for their Easter break today.
New Zealand Transport Agency central media manager Anthony Frith said the country's road network was "sodden from head to toe" and people should be especially careful.
He said a quick check online could save time and keep everyone safer.
"Double following distances, reduce speed, really being careful on corners."
Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon said if "if it has been raining, your car will take longer to stop and have less grip on the road".
"Visibility will also be reduced, and we know that one of the most common causes of crashes is people failing to see something or someone else on the road.
"The key things drivers need to be doing in wet weather is to increase their following distance, use their headlights on dip during the day and slow their speed to adjust to the conditions."
Motorists should also ensure their tyres are safe before heading away'
"A tyre without much tread on it will have less grip in the wet and increase your braking distance. Check your tread depth and if you have a wheel near the 1.5mm legal minimum you want to look at replacing it," Noon added.
The poor weather has already closed several roads around the country.
Tamaki Drive in Auckland has been closed by flooding while in the Waikato, trees blown down by the strong easterly winds have closed State highway 29 at the bottom of the Kaimai Range and in Benneydale on SH30 in the King Country.
Early-morning motorists on State Highway 3 were delayed by debris on the road, but the Manawatu Gorge was cleared in time for the Easter weekend traffic.
Drivers were also warned to take care with high winds a hazard on the Desert Rd and State Highways 56 and 57.
In parts of the South Island, gales and rain are also causing road debris.
Lee Wright, NZTA duty manager for Canterbury and the West Coast, said South Island roads were open but road users should plan their journeys in advance, be patient, and drive to the conditions.
As of this morning, NZTA issued area warnings for SH1 Blenheim to Kaikoura due to strong winds, on the West Coast SH 6 Haast to Makarora where there was danger of rock fall, and also Haast to Harihari where there were strong winds.
Gales on the West Coast, particularly in Westport, have toppled trees and caused rockfalls.
''Contractors are driving the roads all the time and they pick things up quickly.''
She said people travelling out of town should aim to leave as early as possible to avoid the after-work rush.
''It's really, really important that people are patient.''
Motorists have also been advised that during peak travel times today and tomorrow, Wellington's SH1 northbound passing lanes north of Te Horo, as well as the southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, would be closed.
They would be reopened when traffic eases.
"We only have one lane in each direction north of Wellington. Closing passing lanes makes traffic flow better," Frith said.
There would also be passing lane closures over Anzac weekend.
Motorists could expect 50 per cent more traffic today than normal, he said.
NZTA top tips for driving safely during the Easter break:
Plan ahead. Get your vehicle checked before you head out, plan to avoid peak traffic where you can and give yourself enough time to take plenty of rest or sightseeing breaks along the way.
Drive to the conditions. This isn't just about weather conditions-it's about the road you're on, the traffic, your vehicle and load, your speed, and even you as a driver (for example being tired or on medication that might affect your driving).
Watch out for fatigue. Long trips are tiring and fatigue can be deadly behind the wheel. Get a good night's sleep beforehand, and plan in advance where you'll take breaks along the way.
Keep your cool. Holiday driving can be frustrating with busy roads and restless kids in the car. So please, be courteous and patient while on the roads.
Buckle up. Don't let your family holiday be marred by tragedy simply because someone didn't buckle up. If you're the driver you are legally responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 15 are securely restrained with either a safety belt or child restraint. And remember that the laws about child restraints changed on 1 November, so children must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint until their 7th birthday.