Road Safety in New Zealand

New Zealand is a great destination to explore by car, offering an array of scenic road trips across both the north and south islands. But before you put the key in the ignition and hit the road, it’s important to put safety first and take the time to understand the local road rules.
Even though you may be an experienced driver, every country has different driving conditions and if you’re not familiar with the roads, the road signs, the road rules and the driving behaviour of other road users, you may unintentionally put yourself – and others – at risk. 
We recommend anyone arriving from a long haul flight is well rested (overnight advised) before taking to the road in New Zealand.
At Europcar we are committed to promoting safety for all road users, which is why we are proud to support the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand (TIANZ) in its efforts to raise awareness of driver safety for both international visitors and domestic travellers.
On this page, you will find a selection of helpful resources including driving tips, an educational video, an information booklet and other handy resources, including translations in languages other than English.
If you need any more information about road safety in New Zealand, visit:
Safe travels! 

Driving in New Zealand - what you need to know

Before you get behind the wheel in New Zealand, watch this short educational video from the Rental Vehicle Association New Zealand. It includes helpful driving tips, explains the road rules, and takes you through a range of driving experiences you may encounter on New Zealand roads to help you understand what to do. To download a .pdf of what to look out when driving in NZ please CLICK HERE. The document is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Arabic.

The video is also available in Chinese, French and German.

Chinese version - Watch now 
French version - Watch now 
German version - Watch now

Driving tips

Make sure you're familiar with the following tips for driving in New Zealand. For more information, download the What's Different About Driving in New Zealand guide (available below).
1. Keep left. In New Zealand, you drive on the left side of the road.
2. Give way at intersections. If you're turning, give way to all vehicles going straight.
3. Do not turn left at an intersection when the traffic lights are red.
4. The driver must not use a mobile phone or operate the GPS while driving unless the device is completely hands-free.
5. Be mindful of travel times.  New Zealand has some hilly, tight, and winding roads so distances can be deceptive. Plan your journey, take your time, and do not rush. Do not drive when tired. Take breaks and enjoy the journey.
6. Share the road with cyclists. Cyclists have the same rights as drivers. Slow down and pass safely and carefully.
7. Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
8. The open road speed limit is a maximum of 100 km per hour. Generally, the road speed limit in urban areas is a maximum of 50 km per hour. At times you may need to drive slower due to weather, traffic conditions or winding roads.
9. All passengers must wear seatbelts at all times, including children. Children under the age of seven must be secured in an approved child restraint. 
10. The driver must carry a current and valid driver licence and an English translation, if applicable, at all times while they are driving.
11. Do not overtake or crossover when there is a solid yellow line on your side of the road.
12. Be aware of one-lane bridges. Follow the arrows on the signs, which indicate who has right of way (watch the video above for a demonstration).
13. Winter driving poses wet or icy conditions. Slow down and avoid breaking suddenly. Chains may be required in icy or snowy conditions.
14. Be cautious of farm animals on rural roads. Slow down, do not sound your horn, and let the animals pass.
15. Only half of New Zealand's 1500 public rail crossings have automatic alarms. If the red lights are flashing, stop and proceed once the lights have stopped flashing. Other crossings have a railway crossing sign and a give-way or stop sign. At these crossings, obey the road signs and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching (watch the video above for a demonstration).

What's Different About Driving In New Zealand

The What’s Different About Driving In New Zealand guide is an easy-to-read information booklet from the New Zealand Transport Agency. The guide explains the road rules and provides tips and information to help you have a safe and enjoyable journey in New Zealand. You can download it now in English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Arabic.

Driving time and distance calculator

It's easy to underestimate travelling times in New Zealand. The distances on the map can be deceptive and don't account for windy, hilly or narrow roads, which can add time to your journey. It’s not safe to drive when you are tired so this handy driving time and distance calculator can help you plan your journey - and your breaks - so you arrive safely at your destination. 

AA's Visiting Driver Training programme

We want to make sure every driver is adequately prepared and understands 'what's different' about driving in New Zealand. We recommend that you visit the AA’s visiting Driver training programme at and complete the training programme before you leave home. It’ll help you understand the NZ road rules and the typical road conditions you will experience here in New Zealand. You can print a ‘certificate of completion’ and then present it to the rental desk to show you have taken steps to prepare yourself for driving in New Zealand. We will give you a discount off the cost of ancillary charges equivalent to the cost of the certificate.

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