Anyone who visits New Zealand may have to drive on New Zealand roads and Australians are no exception. Although there are some similarities between the two countries, there are also some differences that every Aussie should be aware of. Just like in Australia, driving on the left-hand side of the road is the rule in New Zealand. Read on to discover the similarities and the differences between Australia and New Zealand when it comes to driving on the roadways.
Are you a Provisional Driver?
If you are not a fully licensed driver yet and are still operating with your provisional licence, you are not required to display your “P” plates. You are still under the same restrictions that you are when driving in Australia and you can only drive the class of vehicle that you are licensed to drive and you must carry your licence at all times. You must be at least 21 years of age and have a full driver’s licence to rent a car.
When approaching a give way sign, watch for vehicles to your right. Those vehicles that come from the right have the right of way to access the roadway ahead of you. If you are not accustomed to the give way, it is important to familiar yourself with how the procedure works and which vehicle has the right of way when approaching a give way sign.
Speed Limit Signs
Speed limits should be strictly observed. Speed limit signs in New Zealand are red and circular and posted on the roadways in kilometers per hour (the same as Australia). Highways and city streets are different and will have different speed limits. Observe the speed limits, they are limits for a specific reason. Most roads have limits that are suited to the condition of that road.
New Zealand Roads
Due to the terrain, many New Zealand roads can be tricky to navigate and as such you should comply to the speed limits, especially when you navigate corners. New Zealand is well signposted with speed limits clearly displayed well ahead of corners. At times, you can see livestock on the side of some rural roads and on rare occasions livestock can block your path. Watch carefully for animals and slow down, passing them carefully and slowly as they can be very unpredictable. If you need to move over to the right of the roadway, proceed with caution, watching for oncoming traffic as you pass by the animals that are blocking the road.
Motorcycle riders are a very common sight in New Zealand. Always give them plenty of space and check all your blind spots to ensure that they are not in them. A car can inflict a lot of damage on a motorcyclist or even cause death. Take extra care when you see motorcycles.
One Lane Bridges
There are many one lane bridges in New Zealand in the more rural areas. You will see a road sign indicating a bridge coming up. The sign will have a white arrow and a red arrow. The red arrow indicates who has the right of way and the white arrow indicates who must yield to other vehicles that arrive at the bridge before you. Gravel roads can be dusty and impair vision, so be very careful when you are driving in dusty conditions.
There are many rest stops along the roadways and it is important to take regular breaks. If you feel tired and need to rest, take advantage of one of these rest stops by pulling in and taking a quick nap, having a snack or getting out and stretching your legs. Falling asleep while driving can have deadly consequences both for you and for others on the road. Driving while tired is comparable to driving while impaired.
Roundabouts are used in place of traffic lights to help with the safe flow of traffic. Always enter roundabouts in a clockwise direction and use your indicator when entering and exiting the roundabout. Ensure you yield to traffic that is already in the roundabout.
It is illegal to turn right if there is no right-hand turn sign. Always indicate before you turn and come to a complete stop at every intersection. If you are used to rolling stops just don’t do them because if you are in an accident it could affect your licence. You want to make sure that you have adequate insurance to cover you in any situation for driving in New Zealand.
If in doubt, don’t get behind the wheel when you have been drinking or impaired. It is not only dangerous but carries heavy penalties. If you kill or injure someone you can pay up to $20,000.00 in fines, spend up to 10 years in jail and lose your licence. It goes without saying that driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a risky thing to do and endangers not only your own life but the lives of others.
Before you Travel
It’s a great idea to find out exactly what the differences are between driving in Australia and driving in New Zealand before you get behind the wheel. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand make sure that you have adequate insurance and know all of the rules of the road. Injuring another driver can be upsetting and can also lead to issues in the future. Get in touch with your local driving authority and ask them to advise you of the specific rules that you should be aware of. Drive with respect, care and caution, always wear your seat belt and observe all rules of the road. Even though New Zealand is a closely neighbouring country, it is still a foreign country and you need to follow the laws and rules of New Zealand roads.