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One Tree Hill in Auckland

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Driving Safety

Getting Around New Zealand

Surviving New Zealand Drivers

Some Road Rules

  • Drive on the left of the road.
  • Give way to your right.
  • Speed limit is 50kph in towns, cities.
  • 100 kmh on the open road.
  • Blood alcohol limit is 0.08.
  • Safety belts are compulsory - front and rear.


By Richard Moore,
Editor, TikiTouring

New Zealand is one of the world's great tourist destinations, but travelling around this land one does notice one major problem - many of its drivers.

The roads in New Zealand are really very good with beautiful cambre, a good finish and superb driveability.

These guys know how to build roads!

Unfortunately, there are far too many New Zealanders who haven't a clue as to how to drive on them.

They seem cursed by an insane impatience to get to their destination five minutes faster by taking unbelievable risks with themselves, their passengers - or the poor unfortunates who happen to be coming the other way.

Last year 310 people died on NZ roads. In recent years it has been up to 435 deaths. In just over decade there have been more than 5000 deaths and 137,000 injuries from vehicle crashes. And that is in a nation of around four million people.

On fantastic roads and with less traffic than other nations how can this be?

Well, common sense on the road is not a trait you can associate with many New Zealand drivers.

The other day in a small beachside town I saw a woman tail-gating (very close to the bumper of another vehicle) a truck she had no chance of seeing around.

It was close to school pick-up time and after pulling out into the opposing lane a couple of times she finally accelerated around the truck - about 20 metres before a corner where a car was about to make a left turn right in front of her. Luckily the other driver saw her in time - but it was close.

During any road trip you will see examples of what other people would call insanity.

A seemingly unforgiveable sin is to acknowledge that there are other drivers on the road and to cut them off as often - and in as dangerous a situation - as you possibly can.

Give Way signs in New Zealand seem to mean you give way to the right unless you can pull out in front of cars and make them slow down or brake.

Roundabouts are a constant source of menace as it is the quick and the dead - or severely injured. It seems to be the accepted practice to accelerate into roundabouts at a speed that does not allow for the possibility of anyone coming the other way.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been closer to entering the intersection than a car speeding its way on my right and having to put self-preservation ahead of road rules as a loon hurtles by.

And there are signs saying "Merge like a Zip" where two lanes ease into one.

Kiwis love to merge like a hammer on to an anvil as there is no fear in their eyes (if they ever look outside the rectangular glass in front of them to their side mirrors) as they squeeze into the half-space ahead to pass you.

But it gets better - the key things New Zealand drivers seem to be taught are to overtake on blind crests, or to fly by you on blind corners.

On a two-hour trip from Tauranga to Auckland recently this driver was reduced to white-knuckle fear by the antics of drivers who cannot possibly have got their licences legally.

Going through the small town of Katikati we watched in horror as a red car screeched to a halt as a wheelchair-bound chap had the audacity to cross the main street at a well-marked pedestrian crossing.

The front of the said vehicle missed him by no more than 30 centimetres.

One would suggest it is not an irregular occurrence to the poor bloke as he didn't abuse the cretin at the wheel - in fact he didn't even turn his head.

My passenger, with evil wit, suggested he was speeding!

Then, barely 30 minutes on, we had a suicidal dickhead - and that is the only word for him - in a dark-coloured BMW 520I series who thought he could just drive on the opposite side of the road whenever he felt like it.

He tried a stupid overtaking move - while on double yellow lines (no passing) - and then decided that he couldn't wait any longer and overtook us on a blind corner going uphill as he did so.

It was so fearful a manouevre that I braked - to try to avoid any boomerang effect if the ****** was hit by some unwitting victim doing the legal thing and thrown into us - and kept my distance.

This person was going to be reported to the local police but, unfortunately, by the time we returned home at the end of the weekend we had mislaid his number plate. It's a shame because his antics were so unbelievably insane it beggars description. To make it worse he had a young passenger in the front seat.

Now here I will also mention the "considerate" driver who thought he could tow his boat passed a truck - going up a steep hill - and pulled out into the passing lane that he so cleverly blocked for its entire length. He didn't manage to get by the aforementioned prime mover.

So, already severely shaken, we headed into the No.1 killer area of New Zealand roads around the township of Maramarua.

Now the roads outside of this small township are something to be feared. There seems to be a fatal crash in the area every week and there is no rhyme or reason.

The roads are good to travel on. The police can't explain it - or maybe don't want to - but I will. There are too many retarded, deluded, invincible types on the roads in New Zealand who think they can overtake at any time and get away with it.

If you are driving here look at all the white crosses on the roadside and try to work out how on Earth people were killed on straight roads, or seemingly innocuous corners.

Most likely they've been wiped out by some a******* overtaking on the wrong side of the road.

Anyway, having just got through the kill zone what do we find but some gormless woman who has decided to pull out from a service station and has managed to be blocked by south-going traffic, so she cuts off the entire north-bound lane as well.

Now this is on a Sunday afternoon when most of the Auckland population is heading home - to New Zealand's major city of more than a million people - in a northerly direction.

The chaos was unbelievable and you couldn't help but thinking that in California this woman would have been shot in a road-rage incident (perfectly justifiable as it may have been) by some normally rational person driven into murderous rage by her utter stupidity.

Mind you, in New Zealand mindless idiocy on the roads is an accepted thing.

The police have signs up saying words like "Wrath on bad drivers" - but we saw but one copper on the road during our amazing trip. They seem to be more interested in catching people with speed cameras in city areas than in protecting drivers from the maniacs.

People may talk about the shocking drivers in the Third World - well head on over to New Zealand to see some allegedly First-World loons.

You must drive defensively on New Zealand roads and be ready for almost anything. If you reckon people wouldn't be silly enough to do something watch out for it to happen.








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