For road travellers, winter (usually between June and August) can be the most dangerous time of year. Motor vehicle accidents involving wet weather, fog, ice and snow can have serious consequences, and these conditions can hit anywhere at any time during winter. Snow can be unpredictable, occurring suddenly in areas like the central North Island and alpine passes in the South Island. It only takes a little bit of snow in mild climates to make roads treacherous.

The team at Car Finance have found this extra-helpful article by the NZTA to prepare our readers for winter driving in New Zealand:

What should I do on the road?

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. Accelerate smoothly and brake gently, and use your highest gear when travelling uphill and your lowest downhill.

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. 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.

Am I safer in a 4WD?

Some people believe they are safer in a 4WD. However, these vehicles are no better in winter conditions than any others. You still need to drive to the conditions.

What about ice and snow?

  • Look out for shaded areas caused by high banks and tall trees where roads freeze sooner and ice may not thaw during the day.
  • Bridges could also stay slippery longer than other road surfaces, so slow down when crossing.
  • Frost is more severe at daybreak so be prepared for this after it becomes light. While it may not be frosty at 6am, it could be an hour or two later.

A final piece of winter driving advice

If travel can’t be put off, allow extra time for your journey. Plan to drive in the middle of the day or in daylight hours, when visibility is better and ice and snow are less likely to be on the road. Avoid driving at night when hazards rapidly multiply.

If travelling long distances, make sure you are well rested and plan where to have a break. Share the driving if possible or allow for stops every two hours.

Dress for the conditions, carry warm clothes and keep a survival kit in your vehicle in case you do get stuck. Ensure your car is roadworthy and keep at least half a tank of petrol in your vehicle in case you get diverted onto another route. Be prepared for snow and carry tyre chains that you know how to use and fit.