Driving in winter in New Zealand is more challenging than driving in summer. It’s the same all over the world but given our mountainous terrain and colder winters, it’s important you play it extra safe on local roads. So, if you’re looking for car hire in NZ right now, the team at New Zealand Rent A Car wants to send you on your way with a few safety tips to keep in mind.
Once you have hired your vehicle from us, think about where you’re going and investigate all the routes you can take to get there. The shortest route night not necessarily be the safest one, so seek out local knowledge where you can. We can certainly point you in the right direction. If you have time on your hands, consider if you really MUST travel on a certain day, especially if the weather is poor and there’s a forecast for snow and ice.
If the weather is bad and you can’t put off your journey, allow extra time for your trip. Ideally, it would be best to travel in the middle of the day or in daylight hours, as the visibility will be better and there’s less chance of ice and snow on the road. Avoid driving at night, because that’s when hazards like icy and slippery roads are most prevalent.
On winter roads, it should be obvious that you should drive slower than you normally would. Sadly it’s something that a lot of drivers fail to do, and when travelling at speed it takes just a fraction of a second for them to lose control in wet or icy conditions. Here are some other common-sense steps for winter driving:
- Avoid sudden braking or abrupt turning movements that might cause you to skid.
- Brake gently and accelerate smoothly.
- Select the highest gear when travelling uphill and the lowest gear when going downhill.
- If you hire an older-model vehicle without an anti-skid braking system, pump the brake pedal in short rapid bursts rather than pressing down long and hard. This will help to avoid skidding or sliding or wintry roads.
- Ensure you drive at a safe travelling distance as it takes considerably longer to stop on slippery roads. The two-second rule that you follow should be doubled in winter, especially in poor weather. If traffic builds up behind you because you’re driving slower than you usually would, pull over where safe (look for designated stopping bays) and let them pass.
- When you’re driving in fog, rain or snow, drive with your lights dipped to make yourself more visible to others.
- Be extra careful when driving through shaded areas because roads freeze sooner in such conditions and ice may not thaw during the day.
- Bridges often stay slippery for longer than other road surfaces because there is no insulation underneath them and cold air circulates at both top and bottom to create frosty conditions. Always slow down when crossing them.
- Try to remember that frost is more severe at daybreak. While it may not be frosty at 6 am, it could become so an hour or two later.
- Look out for maintenance vehicles on the highway. They’re often out there helping to keep the roads open during winter. If you come across one of these vehicles, keep a safe following distance and don’t overtake unless you are instructed to.
We’ll help you stay safe on New Zealand’s winter roads with a vehicle that is reliable and well maintained. But it’s up to you to play your part while you’re driving that vehicle, so please keep as many of these tips and mind. That way, you’ll get the very most out of your spectacular winter road trip.