Some of the best destinations in New Zealand are at the end of windy, unsealed roads. Make sure the journey there is as carefree as your time at the destination, by refreshing your memory on how to drive safely in these sometimes-difficult conditions.
Driving on gravel roads
The best safety tip we can give you for driving on unpaved roads is slow, slow, slow. Loose gravel makes these roads a huge driving hazard; add to this the fact that many of them wind around narrow cliff edges with no barriers, and you have a recipe for trouble. Most insurance policies don’t cover off-roading, but should cover those unsealed roads you can find in rural areas. Here are some more tips to keep safe when driving on these roads:
- Avoid braking heavily as this can lead to sliding
- Slow down before blind corners – on narrow roads there may not be room for both cars to pass without one of them pulling off to the side. You’ll need to be ready to stop safely if another car appears
- Keep your speed down to at least 40-50 km/hr, or below. This helps you to maintain control, and slow down safely when approaching oncoming traffic
- Watch that dust! It gets dusty when a car passes you coming from the opposite direction or when you’re following another car, so fall back to a safe distance
- A common form of damage on both windscreens and paintwork comes from the gravel thrown into the air by oncoming traffic, or vehicles ahead. Take it slow, and keep your distance.
How come… it takes so long to stop on a gravel road? The gravel pieces act as rollers between your vehicle wheel and the road surface – making it harder for your tyres to grip. We’ve already said it but we’ll say it again: slow down, and you’ll be so much safer.
Hot tip for rental vehicles. Check whether you’re insured to drive on unsealed roads, as some rental insurance policies won’t cover the cost if you damage your car this way.
And a common myth debunked… contrary to popular opinion, putting your finger or hand up against the windscreen from the inside will NOT stop a piece of gravel cracking your windscreen if it’s thrown up by a passing car. The best way to avoid this is really just to slow down, give the other car loads of room and hope that they’re following the same safe driving rules as you