Safe Driving in New Zealand
NZ roads are bad.
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In English, Español, Français, Deutch Português, 中文, 日本語,한국어, عربى
This brochure is in your car
We want to you have a mint trip. That means a safe driving experience.
To help you drive safely:
- Mint has placed a Basic Info Guide in your car.
- You can ask Mint for a FREE COPY of the official Driving in New Zealand Guide from the New Zealand Transport Agency. It’s available in English, Español, Français, Deutch Português, 中文, 日本語,한국어, ภาษาไทย , عربى
- To watch an official driving safety video, click here.
- To read more detailed driving safety information scroll down.
Detailed Driving Safety Information
Your Mint Car
Familiarise yourself with the vehicle’s safety equipment, including:
- Windshield wipers
- Hazard lights
- The spare tire
- Door locks
Make sure the car always has plenty of petrol.
Current Road Conditions
Rest Before Driving
- If your flight to NZ was more than 5 hours, we advise that you stay overnight in Auckland before driving.
- If your flight to NZ was less than 5 hours, try not to drive more than 90 minutes on the same day.
Many tourists have serious accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel.
Take Regular Breaks
Take regular driving breaks.
Every 1-2 hours, take time to pull over safely, rest, eat, and stretch your legs.
Always drive on the left side of the road.
- The driver is always closest to the centre line.
- The passenger is always closest to the left edge of the road.
If you drive on the right side of the road in your own country, be very careful to keep left – it’s easy to forget where you are!
Give Way Laws at Intersections
In general, if you’re turning, give way to all vehicles that are not turning.
Always use your indicator when turning.
No Left Turn on Red
In New Zealand, you may not turn left at an intersection when the traffic signals are red.
It is Illegal to Use Hand-Held Mobile Devices When Driving
It’s illegal for a driver to use a hand-held mobile device when driving.
It’s illegal for a driver to write, read or send text messages or emails on a mobile device.
If you’re driving, and you want to use a mobile device, it must be hands-free, mounted securely to the vehicle, and touched infrequently and briefly.
Travel Times Are Longer than You Think
It’s easy to underestimate travel times in New Zealand.
Distances may seem short, but NZ roads can be narrow, hilly, and unsealed.
Multilane motorways/freeways only exist close to the biggest cities.
Stay Awake, Stay Alert
If you’re tired, you are more likely to have an accident.
To stay alert when driving, Mint recommends that you:
- Sleep overnight before beginning a long drive.
- Take a break from driving every two hours.
- Share the driving with someone else.
- Avoid large meals and drink plenty of fluid.
If You Feel Sleepy When Driving
Mint recommends that you:
- Stop at a safe place and sleep in the car for up to 40 minutes.
- If you still feel tired, find a place to stay overnight.
You may be surprised to feel tired when driving during the day.
Remember – you may be suffering jetlag.
Stay Safe When You Stop Your Car
- When you drive in NZ, you will see beautiful scenery.
- If you stop to look or take a photograph, never stop on the road.
- Always pull off the road to a safe area.
Tips for Front Seat Passengers
Front seat passengers can help the driver by operating a mobile phone or GPS for them.
Front seat passengers should be closest to the left edge of the road, not the middle.
Share the Road With Cyclists
Cyclists have the same rights as cars on New Zealand roads.
If you hit a cyclist with your car, you will seriously injure or kill them.
To avoid seriously injuring or killing cyclists:
- Slow down near cyclists
- Respect cycle lanes.
- Use your indicator to signal your intention to pass.
- Pass cyclists slowly and only when safe.
- Leave cyclists a space of 1.5 metres when you pass.
When you park your car, check for oncoming cyclists before opening your door.
Don’t Drive After Alcohol or Drugs
Don’t drink or use drugs and then drive – the laws against this are strictly enforced in New Zealand and penalties are severe.
Speed limit signs show the maximum speed you can travel.
- It is illegal to go faster for any reason.
- It is illegal to go faster to pass another vehicle.
- You may need to drive at a slower speed due to road, weather or traffic conditions.
Open Road Sign
This sign indicates the speed limit of 100km/h applies but the road is likely to be bad.
It may not be suitable to travel at that speed.
You may need to drive at a slower speed.
100km/h Speed Limit Sign
On most of New Zealand's main rural roads and highways, the speed limit is 100km/h
Unless a sign says a lower speed applies.
50km/h Speed Limit Sign
In urban areas, the speed limit is usually 30-50km/h
Unless a sign says a lower speed applies.
Seat Belts Save Lives
By law, everyone in the vehicle must wear a safety belt or child restraint.
- Children under 7 years of age must be secured in an approved child restraint.
- Children aged 7 must be secured in an approved child restraint if such a restraint is available.
Child restraints are available from Mint.
You Need a Valid Driver Licence to Drive
Mint will not hire you a car if you don’t have a valid driver license.
You must keep your current and valid driver licence with you at all times when you drive in New Zealand.
If you have an International Driving Permit you must also carry your current and valid driver licence.
If your overseas driver licence is not in English, you must carry an accurate English translation issued by one of the following:
- A translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency (a list is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/licence/residents-visitors/translators.html)
- Mint recommends the Trans National Ltd translation service (www.driverlicencetranslation.co.nz)
- A diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate.
- The authority that issued your overseas licence.
- An International Driving Permit (issued in accordance with a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic) is acceptable only as a translation.
Provided your overseas driver licence or driver permit remains current and valid, you can drive for a maximum period of 12 months from the date you arrive in New Zealand.
Each time you arrive in New Zealand you can drive for a further 12-month period.
After 12 months, if you wish to continue driving in New Zealand, you must obtain a New Zealand driver licence.
Once you have been issued a New Zealand driver licence, you can no longer use your overseas licence.
This applies even if you have been in New Zealand less than 12 months.
Most roads in New Zealand have a single lane each way, and some provide passing lanes at regular intervals – Mint recommends you only pass using passing lanes.
- You must not cross a solid yellow line to pass a vehicle.
- A solid yellow line indicates that it’s too dangerous to overtake.
A number of roads in New Zealand have one-lane bridges where vehicles traveling in one direction must give way to vehicles going in the other direction.
Any of the signs below show that you are approaching a one-lane bridge.
Slow down and check for traffic coming the other way.
Give Way Signs
These two signs show you must give way to traffic coming the other way across the bridge.
Right of Way Sign
This sign indicates that if no traffic is approaching, you can proceed across the bridge with caution.
Look out for this slippery surface sign in wet or icy conditions – slow down and avoid braking suddenly.
Snow and ice can make roads even more hazardous, particularly on hills and mountains.
Your car may need chains if you’re likely to be driving in these conditions
Animals on the Road
Watch out for farm animals on the road. Particularly in rural areas.
When you see them, slow down and do not sound your horn – it may scare them.
You may need to stop and let the animals go past.
If there are many animals, look for the farmer and follow her/his instructions.
Watch out for wild animals on the road. Particularly in rural areas.
The biggest danger is a hawk.
Hawks often eat dead animals on the road.
If they see you, they will try to fly away. They take a long time to take off.
If you drive too fast, the hawk may go through your windshield.
Watch out for possums, hedgehogs, and small wild animals.
If you are driving at night, you may accidentally hit and kill a possum or hedgehog.
Congratulations. These animals are pests. As long as your car is undamaged, there’s no need to stop.
If you see a pest on the road ahead of you, slow down and try to safely avoid it.
This is best for the car and for your nerves.
Do NOT try to kill them.
Watch out for cats, dogs and other family pets.
If you are in an urban area, and you accidentally kill a cat or a dog, it is polite to stop, and see if you can find the owner.
If you find the owner, you do not have to pay them money, but you may wish to apologise and explain the details.
Unsealed (Gravel) Roads
Avoid unsealed roads if possible.
If you need to drive on them, reduce your speed.
They are very narrow, with no road markings and they are slippery - your car may slide or spin.
Oncoming traffic makes clouds of dust that can obscure your vision.
Oncoming traffic and vehicles in front shoot loose stones that can chip your windscreen.
Only park facing in the direction of the traffic on the left side of the road.
Unless it’s a one-way street. Then you can park facing the direction of the traffic on both sides.
There are 1500 public rail crossings in New Zealand.
Only 50% of them have flashing lights and alarms.
If red lights are flashing, stop and only proceed once the lights have stopped flashing.
If there are no lights, there will be Give Way or Stop Signs only.
When you see a Stop Sign at a rail crossing, stop and look both ways for trains.
When you see a Give Way sign, slow down and look both ways for trains.
If you can see a train coming towards you, wait for it to go by before crossing.
Trains are faster than you think.
Do not try to drive over the tracks in front of an oncoming train.
On a motorway you must not:
- Walk or cycle.
- Stop your vehicle (unless in an emergency).
- Make a U-turn.
- When changing lanes on a motorway, always indicate for at lead 3 seconds. and check the road is clear before changing lanes.
If you need to make an emergency stop:
- Signal your intention to stop using indicators or hazard warning lights.
- Stop your vehicle as far as possible to the left side of the road.
- Turn on your hazard warning lights until help arrives.
Prohibited Driving Areas - Off Road Driving
You can’t drive a Mint Rental car in the following places:
- Ninety Mile Beach (Northland)
- Skipper’s Canyon (Queenstown)
- Any unformed roads and/or roads other than tarseal or metal: including but not limited to beaches, driveways, or any surface likely to damage the car.
If you’re involved in an accident:
- Stop and check if anyone has been injured.
- Call 111 for an ambulance.
- Give all the practical help you can.
For your protection, you should not admit liability under any circumstances
- Immediately call Mint Rentals on 0800 84 24 24.
- If someone is injured, and the Police don’t arrive, you must contact the Police within 24 hours and notify them of the accident.
- If the accident involved damage to property and the owner cannot be located, contact the Police within 48 Hours.
- Fill in the Mint Rentals Accident Report Form, located in your car glovebox. Include the name, address, vehicle registration number, and the insurance company of the other person involved.