Online resources help adjust visitors to driving in New Zealand

February 22, 2016
Online resources help adjust visitors to driving in New Zealand

Ministry of Transport research and statistics shows that in the 12 months to Feb. 22 there have been 316 road deaths in New Zealand.

In 2014 the New Zealand Herald reported that in about three-quarters of crashes, visitors were found at fault, including 11 crashes that were fatal. Seven of those were attributed to the drivers failing "to adjust to local conditions", according to crash data recorded at the scenes.

Transport Agency safety spokeswoman Lisa Rossiter said a number of elements in New Zealand could cause "unfamiliar" drivers difficulty.

"The unfamiliar driver is caught out by road design and layout they are not used to, and unfamiliar signages ... [and] they get distracted by scenery."

About two percent of NZ's road fatalities are caused by tourists, but challenging driving conditions in the South Island can be a trap for visitors and concerns are growing as accidents increase.

Speed is a major factor. In 2008, speed contributed to 34 percent of New Zealand's fatal crashes and 20 percent of serious injury crashes.

In 2008, 127 people died, 569 were seriously injured and 2,060 suffered minor injuries in crashes where speed was a contributing factor. The social cost of these crashes was about $875 million.

Despite substantial progress over the last 30 years, New Zealand still lags behind many other countries in road safety. Every year, hundreds are killed on NZ roads and nearly 2,900 people are seriously injured. About 13,000 New Zealanders suffer minor injuries as a result of road crashes. The level of road death and injury suffered by New Zealand's young people is especially high.

These numbers reflect lives lost and ruined in what are mostly preventable crashes, but they do not show the effect of these crashes on families, the wider community and the health system. Road crashes can also have an economic impact. The annual social cost of crashes is estimated to be $3.8 billion.

If you are hiring a car, motorhome or campervan in New Zealand you will need to have a current, valid driver's licence. You must not have received a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand.

You must have entered New Zealand less than 12 months ago and not have a New Zealand licence. If your licence is not in English you will need an accurate translation to English.

Milford Sound cruising. Courtesy Destination Fiordland
Milford Sound cruising. Courtesy Destination Fiordland

In general, if you are turning, give way to all vehicles that aren't turning. Give way to your right on roundabouts and drive clockwise around them. If a school bus is stopped and picking up or setting down passengers, the limit past it is 20kph. Don't get caught out your car could be impounded.

Speed limits are generally 100kph (62mph) on rural roads and motorways. Generally 50kph (31mph) in towns and cities. Remember 100kph may apply but the road could be challenging so use the appropriate speeds.

New Zealand has very variable road conditions from 5-lane motorways at one extreme to roads that are beaches at the other extreme. The large rural area means that many roads are unsealed (gravel) and can be narrow. Motorways don't exist outside of the main centers, although there are dual carriageways and expressways in some areas.

Many of New Zealand roads have limited opportunities for overtaking. Passing lanes and slow vehicle bays are provided on busier roads.

Winter can bring snow and ice throughout the South Island and in the North Island on Desert Road and sections of high country such as the Napier-Taupo Highway and around the ski fields such as Turoa and Whakapapa. Check online before you leave.

Motorhomes park up on NZ tour.
Motorhomes park up on NZ tour.

Look out for the slippery surface sign in wet or icy conditions.

Snow and ice can make roads even more hazardous, particularly around mountain passes. Rental vehicle companies will often supply chains if you are likely to be driving in these conditions make sure you know how to fit them before setting out.

The quickest way to learn is with the free tourist Road Code quizzes as recommended by Tourism NZ, the Tourism Industry Association of NZ and many car rental companies CLICKTHESE LINKSPLEASE

Also see:

Fishing at the front door. KEA pic
Fishing at the front door. KEA pic