Travel for hundreds of holidaymakers will be made much slower today as passing lanes en route to the Coromandel are closed in a bid to prevent crashes.

Passing lanes on State Highway 2 at Maramarua are all currently shut down, with road cones blocking access to motorists

SH2 is the main highway connection between Auckland, the Coromandel and Tauranga.

A passing lane on the way to the Coromandel, closed off with road cones. Photo / supplied
A passing lane on the way to the Coromandel, closed off with road cones. Photo / supplied

Acting Waikato Transport System Manager Rob Campbell said the closures would make the road safer for all road users in heavy traffic by "maintaining a steady flow and preventing crashes as traffic merges at the end of the passing lane".

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"Slightly longer queues can be expected when the passing lanes are closed but we expect minimal impact to overall travel times," he said.

"We ask drivers to be patient and allow extra time for their journeys, so everyone gets where they're going safely," says Mr Campbell.

For eastbound traffic, the three passing lanes on SH2 near Mangatawhiri Rd, Kopuku Rd and Heaven's Rest are scheduled to be closed until at least 5pm.

They will be closed again on Friday and Saturday from 9am to 5pm.

For westbound traffic, the two passing lanes near Heaven's Rest and the Maramarua Golf Club will be closed on January 2, 3 and 5 from at least 9am to 10pm.

"Reopening of the passing lanes and ramps will depend on the traffic flow," Campbell said.

"If traffic remains heavy, the closures will remain in place for longer."

The official road toll period started at 4pm on Friday and ends at 6am on Monday January 13.

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As of today the road toll stands at 337 for the year.

This month alone 23 people have been added to the fatality list.

The figure surpasses the 2018 road toll of 259.

A 4km speed-limit tolerance is in place during this time.

Earlier this week police pleaded with drivers to take extra care on the roads.

"As people head away for the holidays we want them to remember that safety comes first at all times," said National road policing manager Acting Superintendent Amelia Steel.

"The people around you on the road are people's loved ones, possibly your own.

"It could be your brother, your mother, your best friend, or us - if that's not reason enough to drive safely, I don't know what is."

Steel said driving could be life threatening if the person behind the wheel was not being responsible.

"So we want people to stay focused when they're behind the wheel or on their bike," she said.

"Everyone has a lot on their minds this time of year so it can be easy to be distracted. But if you're driving a vehicle you need to give that task your full attention.

"It's doing the basics that will keep you safe this summer; watch your speed and your following distances, stay focused – put your phone out of reach – wear your seatbelt, and always driver sober and alert."

Steel said police would :have a "strong and visible presence" on the roads this summer.

"Because we want everybody to get safely to their loved ones and their holiday destinations," Steel explained.

"We also need every road user to play their part.

"We can't be on every road at all times or sit in the car beside you to remind you to pay attention, slow down, or take a break."

She urged drivers to "stop and think about the potential consequences" and to not take any chances.

"Please make sure you treat everyone on the roads around you like you would your loved ones; with respect and patience," Steel implored.

"Let's all enjoy a safe holiday season."

Steel said being properly restrained reduced a person's chance of death or serious injury in a crash by 60 per cent in the front seat and 44 per cent in the back seat.

She said even when speed doesn't cause the crash, it is the single biggest determinant in whether anyone is killed, injured, or walks away unharmed.

A small change in speed makes a big difference to injury severity in a crash Speeding and travelling too fast for the conditions is a contributing factor in around one third of all fatal crashes and 15 per cent of all injury crashes.

Stay safe, arrive alive - tips for holiday driving

Slow:

Drive within speed limits, drive at 30km/h or lower in communities, and slow down on rural roads too. Avoid overtaking unless you're sure it's safe.

Sober: If driving, don't drink any alcohol, or take any illegal drugs or medication that could affect your driving.

Sharp: Drive alert – not tired, ill or stressed. Plan your journey so you have plenty of time, and take breaks every two hours on long journeys. Have an eye test at least every two years and wear glasses or contact lenses if needed.

Silent: Phone off or on message service. Minimise other distractions such as sat nav/GPS and tuning the radio as much as possible.

Secure: Always belt up and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does the same and adjusts head restraints. If travelling with children, ensure you have correctly fitted, appropriate child restraints.

Sustainable: Only drive when you have to.

Source: Brake, the road safety charity