All Kiwis will want to reduce their risk of being involved in an accident on the road, and one way you can do this is by being aware of the dangers you face behind the wheel.

Here are the top causes of accidents in New Zealand and some of the ways you can avoid getting caught in these traps.

Alcohol

This is a big contributor to accidents on the road, with alcohol and drugs involved in around one in every three fatal crashes in the country.

It is for this reason the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has set out limitations for the amount of alcohol you can consume and still legally drive.

If you are planning on having a few drinks, it is best to organise alternative transport before you start, as these beverages can slow down your reaction times and seriously affect your driving ability.

Those under 20 face a zero alcohol limit, so if you are in this age group you cannot get behind the wheel after consuming any alcohol – even one drink can result in a drink driving charge, so make sure you stick to non-alcoholic beverages.

Anyone over 20 faces different rules, as the risk for young people is considered higher. The amount of alcohol you can have depends on whether you are male or female, your size and how much food you have had to eat. Your blood alcohol reading should not be any higher than 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, or 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

There are penalties if you are stopped and found to have higher blood alcohol levels.

Speed

This is a contributing factor in around 30 per cent of all fatal crashes in New Zealand. Travelling at speeds that exceed the recommended limit increases the risk that a crash will occur and the severity of any accident. Remember, the faster you go, the bigger the mess.

Your speed will have a difference on the force of impact and travelling too fast for the conditions is one way to put yourself, your passengers and others on the road at risk.

It can be hard for other road users to judge how fast you are going if you are speeding. Plus, as speed increases so does the chance you will find it hard to slow down on a curve.

According to the NZTA, speeding is as dangerous as drink driving and a 5 km increase in speed in a 60 km/h zone carries the same risk as having a blood alcohol level of 50 milligrams per 100 milligrams of blood.

NZTA has calculated the difference between driving at 90 km/h and 85 km/h on a 10km trip and found the difference added to your journey by travelling at a lower speed in only 23 seconds.

Age

The number of young people involved in accidents on the road is disproportionate when you consider how much of the population this group represents.

Young people are particularly at risk of accident due to their lack of experience behind the wheel and their reduced ability to observe and analyse risks.

People in this age group are more likely to dangerously overtake others, make dangerous manoeuvres and speed.

Fatigue

This does not just refer to people almost falling asleep at the wheel, but also includes the feeling of being tired behind the wheel – any loss of alertness or drowsy driving is considered a sign of fatigue.

It can affect you and result in you having trouble braking or being able to employ any avoidance tactics. Often drivers revert to a micro nap, which is around 3 to 5 seconds where you are not focussed. This can equate to around 100 metres of travel if you are going at a speed of 100 km/h.

It pays to take regular breaks from driving especially during long journeys. Stopping to grab a quick bite to eat or even a short walk may help to refresh your concentration and refocus your attention.

New Zealand’s rate of accidents on the roads has been declining steadily for the past few decades, but it pays to do all you can to make sure you are safe on the road.

For added peace of mind, make sure you have your car insurance organised so if something did happen, you would be covered.