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7 Safety Tips For Driving Around New Zealand

travel insurance blog about driving safety tips for new zealand


Once again, this New Zealand summer saw another terrible road toll with 49 deaths in January and February of this year alone (ref: NZTA

New Zealand roads can be very different from those found overseas, not just because we drive on a different side than half the world, but also because we have windy narrow roads, unsealed roads, confusing intersections and a lack of signage.

That said, driving around New Zealand is a great way to see our beautiful country and offers more freedom than a bus or organised tour.  So to help you out we have listed some tips for driving safely on our roads:


1. Rest before you drive

If you have just arrived on a long haul flight we recommend you get a days rest before you head off on your journey. There have been many unfortunate, but avoidable, deaths due to tourists being fatigued and/or jet-lagged when they are behind the wheel.  Once rested you will be in a better position to plan your journey, check out the local maps, and enjoy your drive.


2. Wear a seatbelt

It is law that you wear a seatbelt in New Zealand.  If you have children travelling with you, you are responsible for making sure passengers under the age of 15 are using an approved child restraint or safety belt. Note: Children under seven must be correctly secured in an approved child restraint.

3. Keep Left

Yes we drive on the Left Hand Side of the road.  There are not always arrows or signs to remind you of this - so if you need reminding try wearing a bracelet or band on your left hand as an easy reminder.

4. 100 is the Max

Unlike the autobahn, or other international highways, our maximum speed is 100 kilometers an hour on open roads and highways.  Speed limit signs in towns usually say 50 km/h, and dangerous stretches of road, windy roads, gravel roads etc will have their own speed limit - keep an eye out for a sign with a red ring around a number.  These speeds have been calculated on road condition and safety, and are not to be ignored.  

5. Drive to the conditions

New Zealand can be blessed with hot summers and gorgeous snowy winters, but sometimes we have extreme weather events that will see snow fall in summer, weather bombs with heavy rain, high winds, icy roads etc.  So it pays to look at the forecast, listen to local radio news if weather is bad, or check with the local petrol (gas) station to see if roads are closed (you can also check this website for road closures -   


Always drive to the conditions, if it is raining, icy, snowing or foggy reduce your speed, increase your following distance and break gently.

6. Know the rules

Most road rules are universal, but when you are driving on a different side of the road it can be confusing at intersections and roundabouts.  Remember, use roundabouts by driving clockwise and indicating left as you exit your lane.  Stops signs are compulsory stop intersections, no rolling tyres.  

Be careful when overtaking.  These are the recommendations from the official New Zealand Transport Authority for overtaking on our roads:

Before you pass:

  • make sure you will be able to see at least 100 metres of clear road ahead of you once you have finished passing - if not, don't pass
  • look well ahead to make sure there are no vehicles coming towards you
  • look behind to make sure there are no vehicles passing you
  • signal right for at least three seconds before moving out to pass.

Before pulling in front of a vehicle you have passed:

  • make sure you can see the vehicle in your rear view mirror
  • signal left for at least three seconds.


7. Avoid Distractions

It is illegal to use your cellphone while you are driving in NZ, including sending or reading a text message.  You can, however, use your cellphone to make, receive or terminate a telephone call while driving if the phone is secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle.

We recommend that you don’t get distracted, this includes tuning the radio, taking photos out the window (yes people do that), reading maps etc.  If you really want to appreciate the scenery - pull over in safe place away from the road.


We hope these tips help you plan a safe journey around our country, if you have more queries about our road rules then check out our official road code here -



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