WINTER is here and that means taking extra care in bad weather when you’re behind the wheel.

Police and the NZ Transport Agency are reminding drivers to pay attention to the conditions this winter and not to take careless risks.

“Driving in winter is not the same as driving in summer. New Zealand seasons are distinct, especially in our alpine and rural areas,” Superintendent Steve Greally, national manager of road policing said.

“Extreme weather conditions such as ice, snow, fog and wet weather can hit quickly, so people need to be prepared for the weather conditions and know how to handle the vehicle they are driving.

“Pre-planning is essential for safe travel and if drivers want to avoid delays caused by road restrictions, road closures, or vehicle breakdowns,” Greg Lazzaro, NZ Transport Agency director safety health and environment said.

“Check traffic and travel updates before you leave, think about where you’re going and what route you should take – choose safety over convenience.

“Always check the weather forecast and consider if you really need to travel, especially if the weather is poor,” he said.

If the weather is bad and your 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.

“When you’re on a wet, icy, or snowy road, it’s important not to brake suddenly or to accelerate quickly, as you could aquaplane or skid.”

“In these situations, more than ever, driving to the conditions is crucial.

“People need to watch their following distances, make sure before they set out that their headlights and windscreen wipers are working, and check weather reports in alpine areas.”

As part of the winter driving focus, police and the NZTA will be doing safety checks of commercial and passenger service vehicles, and their drivers on roads around New Zealand’s ski fields.