Whether you’ve been driving in New Zealand for a year or for fifty, it’s always a good idea to brush up on road safety – especially in the holiday season.
Before leaving home, check the NZTA journey planner(opens in new window) to avoid roadworks and congestion. Summer holidays mean more traffic on the road, and more people driving in unfamiliar environments, so you need to drive with increased caution and care.
Check the weather forecast and be aware of conditions – you may experience four seasons in one day if travelling a long distance, and weather-related hazards can occur on the road at any time.
New Zealand’s diverse terrain means roads are often narrow, hilly and windy with plenty of sharp corners. Outside of the main cities, there are very few motorways. Most of our roads are single lane in each direction without barriers in between, and gravel roads are more common in remote areas.
It’s important to allow plenty of time, go slow, and pull over in a safe place if traffic wants to pass from behind you.
It is critical to stay alert while you are driving. Take advantage of rest area signs across the roads where you can stop. It is recommended to never drive when you are tired, and take regular breaks. It doesn’t matter where in New Zealand you are driving; it is extremely dangerous to drive when you are tired.
In summer, hot days and long-distance driving can make you especially tired, as well as early starts and late nights, or because you had a long day driving the day before. So make sure to stop for regular breaks when required.
It’s easy to underestimate drive times when looking at a map.
Maps don’t show how narrow and windy roads can be. What might look like a short trip can take a long time. For example: Hokitika to the town of Haast, a popular drive for visitors stopping to see New Zealand’s glaciers, is 278 kilometres on the map and may look like a short three-hour drive. However, drivers should allow for up to four hours of driving time because of the windy road. This is common all over New Zealand.
Take your time, allow for more time than you think you’ll need, and make the journey a part of your holiday.
Check out our time and distance calculator to estimate your driving time.
Holiday driving can be frustrating, with busy roads, stifling heat, and everyone out enjoying Doing Something New – so make sure you are being courteous and patient to others.
Trucks and towing vehicles have lower speed limits, so make sure you are passing safely in a passing lane or when you can see enough clear road ahead to overtake carefully.
Watch out for cyclists, and horses on backcountry roads.
Drink driving is dangerous and there are strict penalties for driving when under the influence. In New Zealand, the legal drink drive limits for drivers 20 years and over are a breath alcohol limit of 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath and a blood alcohol limit of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. If you’re under 20 there is a zero alcohol limit.
Take a few minutes to visit drive.govt.nz(opens in new window) and refresh your knowledge on how to be a safe and legal driver on the roads.