New Zealanders drive on the left-hand side of the road, which can be disconcerting to drivers from countries that drive on the right-hand side. Luckily many tourism areas of New Zealand have large arrows painted on roads next to rest stops and the like to remind tourists to drive on the left. Most rental vehicles also have stickers on the dashboard reminding drivers to drive on the left.
Differences between the US and New Zealand Road Rules
Unlike the US, New Zealand has many roundabouts, which are large circular traffic islands on which the driver gives way to anyone approaching from their right. New rules have been introduced for use of indicators on roundabouts, but many drivers have misunderstood these, so it’s always best to wait, rather than trust the other driver is indicating properly.
The rule is that when you are turning left, i.e. taking the first exit, the driver must indicate left. If driving straight through the roundabout the driver only indicates left when the vehicle is past the If turning right, i.e. taking the third exit, indicate left after the second exit (straight through) has been passed.
Driving on Motorways in New Zealand
Only the major cities have motorway systems and unlike many other countries there is no ‘fast lane’. That is, there is no lane which drivers use only to overtake slower traffic. Motorists are encouraged to keep left, but this is not enforced. New Zealanders also have a peculiar habit of moving directly into the right hand lane and staying there, even if they are travelling under the legal speed limit.
Driving on the Open Road in New Zealand
There are, by and large, no motorway systems that connect cities. This has the advantage of allowing tourists to see the scenic landscape, but it does also means that State highways are most usually only two lane roads, with no central dividers. This means that head on collisions are unfortunately quite common in New Zealand.
Speed Limits in New Zealand
The open road speed limit is 100km/h (62mph), but as of the writing of this article the Police have a margin of speed error which means it is possible to drive at an indicated speed of 110km/h due to the speedometer error in most vehicles. Most traffic on the open road in New Zealand travels at speeds often far below the speed limit in any case.
In urban areas the speed limit is most usually 50km/h (31mph), although some outlying areas have 60km/h (37mph) and 70km/h (43mph) limits. Speed cameras are very common in New Zealand, and are either fixed in place on poles, or positioned in the back of vans parked by the side of the road. In the US, on the other hand, when driver are issued a speeding ticket, they have the option to erase ticket by attending traffic school.
Driving in New Zealand can be a strange and intimidating experience to people more used to wide lanes on large motorways, and New Zealanders’ driving discipline is often very lax. But it is possible to safely drive through most of New Zealand with no trouble provided an extra margin of care is exercised.