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New Zealand - Driving

It is generally considered that the road standard in New Zealand is very good, although in rural areas there may be some regions which have roads in poorer conditions. As in the UK, New Zealanders drive on the left and signposting is regular and clear. Drivers must give way to those who are approaching from the right unless otherwise marked.

Roads have speed limits clearly marked and these are in kilometres rather than miles. The usual speed limit on an open road is 100 km/h and in built-up areas it is 50 km/h. Speed limits are enforced and it is common for the police to set up check points and stop drivers for speeding. Fines and points on the licence are the usual penalties.

Motorways are used around cities, and many busy roads are now dual carriageways. Smaller roads, particularly those in rural areas can be narrow or winding and this could make a journey longer. Sign posting is not complicated to follow as it uses symbols which are used in many countries and some of the signs are the same as they are in the UK.

The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory in both the back and the front of the car and if a child is aged below five years then an appropriate child seat must be in use. All drivers should be aware that drink driving laws are strict in New Zealand and prosecution is common for those who flout them.

Those who drive motorbikes should note that helmets are to be worn at all times and it is compulsory to use headlights at all times on motorbikes.

Traffic lights in New Zealand are strict and if the light is on red you should not be moving. This is the same as in the UK. When the light is on amber you should be stopping unless it is not safe for you to do so.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is the best place to find up to date travel information. Rush hour is not as frantic as it is in the likes of London or New York, but the cities do have a fair amount of traffic. Morning rush hour tends to be between 7.30 am and 9.30 am and the evening rush hour is from around 4.30 pm to 7 pm, but this does depend upon the area in which you live.

There are a number of toll roads in existence and several more are being planned. A few have booths where you need to stop and pay but the new ones that are being planned are fully electronic. The Northern Gateway Toll Road is the first of these and it works by taking electronic images of the car and sending out a bill, which can be paid on line or over the phone. If you know in advance that you are going to be using the road you can pay in advance. There is a time limit for payments which must be adhered to.

As with other parts of the world, fuel costs have risen in recent years and are fluctuating all the time and as with other countries, the price will depend upon the area that you are in and the demand locally. If you are in a rural area with only one petrol station then the cost is bound to be higher than in the city where there is more competition.

There is no specific equipment required by law although most cars are equipped with a warning triangle and it is recommended to have with you high visibility jackets or vests in case your car breaks down on a main road.

In the event of an accident you need to contact the emergency services if anybody is hurt. If not then you need to be sure that you get the details of the other driver including insurance information. If it appears that they are not insured then you need to make sure that the police attend and you take details of the other vehicle. You may need the contact details of the attending police officer for your insurance company. Accidents do occur on New Zealand roads and are no less frequent than they are in the US or the UK.

The standard of driving is generally fairly good in New Zealand although you need to be careful in busy traffic when other drivers may be in a hurry and not concentrating properly.

Useful Resources

New Zealand Transport Agency

Travel Information South Island
Tel: 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49)

Read more about this country

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