There are a few things that you may not be used to when driving in New Zealand. For example:
- we drive on the left side of the road
- using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal.
Make sure you have a safe and enjoyable journey and please read this booklet before starting out.
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.
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.
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.
It’s easy to underestimate travelling times in New Zealand.
Distances may seem short on paper, but New Zealand roads may be narrower than you’re used to, cover hilly terrain and vary from motorways (freeways) to unsealed gravel roads.
If you’re tired you’re much more likely to have a crash. Here are some tips to help you stay alert.
- Get plenty of rest before a long drive.
- Take a break from driving every two hours.
- If possible, share the driving with someone else.
- Avoid large meals and drink plenty of fluid.
- If you begin to feel sleepy, at a safe place and try to have a short sleep for up to 40 minutes.
- If you’re feeling very tired, find a place to stay overnight.
Speed limit signs show the maximum speed you can travel. At times you may need to drive at a slower speed due to road, weather or traffic conditions.
Different speed limits apply throughout New Zealand – look out for the speed limit signs.
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.
DRIVER LICENCE REQUIREMENTS
You must have your current and valid driver licence or driver permit with you at all times when you’re driving. If your overseas licence or driver permit is not in English, you must also carry an accurate English translation issued by:
- an translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency (a list is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/licence/residents-visitors/translators.html), or
- a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate, or
- the authority that issued your overseas licence.
An International Driving Permit (issued in accordance with a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic) is acceptable as a translation.
Provided your overseas driver licence or driver permit remains current and valid, you can drive for a maximum period of 12 months from the date you arrive in New Zealand. Each time you arrive in New Zealand you can drive for a further 12-month period.
After 12 months, if you wish to continue driving in New Zealand, you must obtain a New Zealand driver licence.
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.
A number of roads in New Zealand have one-lane bridges where vehicles travelling in one direction must give way to vehicles going in the other direction.
Any of the signs below show that you are approaching a one-lane bridge. Slow down and check for traffic coming the other way. The smaller red arrow shows which direction has to give way.
ANIMALS ON THE ROAD
UNSEALED (GRAVEL) ROADS
In New Zealand, you can be fined or towed away for parallel parking on the wrong side of the road.
You may only park in the direction of traffic flow on your side of the road (ie on the left side) unless it is a one-way street.
Only half of New Zealand’s 1500 public rail crossings have automatic alarms. 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.
If you’d like more information, please contact theNZ Transport Agency. You can also read New Zealand’s road code which covers all New Zealand’s traffic rules.
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