Traffic and Road Conditions in New Zealand

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

While in New Zealand, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. All traffic travels on the left in New Zealand, and you should exercise extra caution if you are accustomed to driving on the right. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a leading cause of serious injury and death for U.S. tourists. Proceed carefully through intersections. Traffic circles are common throughout New Zealand. When approaching a traffic circle, always yield to traffic coming from the right--noting that traffic already in the circle has the right-of-way--and merge to the left into the circle. Right turns on a red traffic signal are not permitted.

Renting a car or a camper is a popular way to enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty, but if you are unfamiliar with local conditions, you should be extremely careful. New Zealand has only 100 miles of multi-lane divided motorways. Most intercity travel is on two-lane roads. While these roads are in good condition, New Zealand's rugged terrain means motorists often encounter sharper curves and steeper grades than those found on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Make sure to follow the posted speed limit signs. You should also use caution to avoid animals when driving in rural areas. Please note that there is very limited cell phone coverage on large portions of scenic highway in the South Island, which is remote and has little traffic.

Roadside sobriety checks by police are common, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to immediate jail time in New Zealand. Furthermore, New Zealand prohibits driving while texting as well as driving while using a cell phone.

Make sure to look carefully in all directions before crossing a street or roadway, and always use crosswalks. Pedestrians do not have the right of way except in crosswalks. New Zealand law requires that cars stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk and that cars stop at least two meters (approximately 6 feet) from a crosswalk that is in use.

Public transportation, including buses, trains, and taxis, is for the most part reliable and safe.

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2019 Edition