There are a few things that you may not be used to when driving in New Zealand.
Always drive on the left side of the road. If you drive on the right side of the road in your own country, please remember to keep left when pulling out onto the road – it’s easy to forget where you are! Keep well to the left when you are driving around a curve (a bend in the road), whether you are on a laned or unlaned road.
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
Don’t drink or use drugs and then drive – the laws against this are strictly enforced in New Zealand and penalties are severe. For drivers under 20 years old, there is a zero alcohol limit. This means you are not entitled to drive if there is any alcohol in your blood or breath. For drivers aged 20 years and over, the alcohol limit is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood or 250 micrograms per litre of breath.
DRIVER LICENCE REQUIREMENTS
You must have your current and valid driver licence or driver permit with you at all times when you are driving. If your overseas licence or driver permit is not in English, you must also carry an accurate English translation.
By law, everyone in the vehicle must wear a safety belt or child restraint – whether they are in the front or back. Children under seven years of age must be secured in an approved child restraint. Children aged seven must be secured in an approved child restraint if such a restraint is available.
It is easy to underestimate travelling times in New Zealand. Distances may seem short on paper, but New Zealand roads may be narrower than you are used to, cover hilly terrain and vary from motorways (freeways) to unsealed gravel roads. If you are tired you are much more likely to have a crash.
HAND-HELD MOBILE PHONES
Drivers must not use a hand-held mobile phone when driving, unless the device is completely hands-free or mounted securely to the vehicle – and touched infrequently and briefly. Writing, reading or sending text messages on a mobile phone while driving is also illegal.
GIVING WAY AT INTERSECTIONS
In general, if you’re turning, give way to all vehicles that are not turning. Always use your indicator when turning.
Most roads in New Zealand have a single lane each way, and some provide passing lanes at regular intervals – these should be used where possible when overtaking. You must not cross a solid yellow line on your side of the centre line to pass a vehicle, as this indicates it’s too dangerous to overtake.
NO LEFT TURN ON RED
In New Zealand you may not turn left at an intersection when the traffic signals are red. If turning at traffic signals, give way to pedestrians crossing the road.
SHARING THE ROAD WITH CYCLISTS
Cyclists have the same rights as drivers on New Zealand roads. Always slow down near cyclists, pass slowly and only when safe, and try to leave a space of 1.5 metres. Indicate in plenty of time and respect cycle lanes.
Different speed limits apply throughout New Zealand – look out for the speed limit signs. On most of New Zealand main rural roads and motorways, the speed limit is 100km/h unless a sign says a lower speed applies. In urban areas, the speed limit is usually 50km/h unless a sign says otherwise.
If red lights are flashing, stop and only proceed once the lights have stopped flashing. Other crossings have railway crossing and give way or stop signs only. When you see a stop sign at a crossing, stop and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching. When you see a give way sign, slow down and be ready to stop and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching.