Top safety tips for driving in New Zealand

If you’re getting ready for an upcoming holiday in the wild and woolly land of New Zealand, you’ve got a lot to look forward to. A self-driving trip might just be the best possible way to enjoy this stunning country.

Top safety tips for driving in New Zealand

However, travellers to New Zealand should be aware of some differences that may exist between their home countries and the land of the silver fern. That’s why we’ve assembled our guide with the top tips to ensure safe travels throughout New Zealand.

A great step you can take to ensure safe driving in New Zealand is to choose the right rental vehicle for you. If you choose to hire a car with GO Rentals, you can choose from a wide fleet of cars with unlimited kilometres, basic rental insurance coverage and 24-hour roadside assistance, ensuring a safe and stress-free trip.

Driving on the left side of the road

Of all the driving tips to keep in mind while travelling throughout New Zealand, there is none more significant than this one. It is crucially important that you always remain on the correct side of the road to avoid head-on collisions.

Here are a few methods you can use to ensure you never forget to remain on the correct side of the road:

  • When you first step into your vehicle, take a moment to properly adjust and notice your mirrors, pedals and gear stick.
  • Remember that the driver’s side of the car should always be closest to the middle of the road, just as is the case in your home country.
  • Avoid any distractions like a GPS or smartphone.
  • Use memory devices like a simple phrase or mnemonic.
  • Take special care at intersections and roundabouts.

Familiarise yourself with road signs

New Zealand’s road signs may be quite different to those you are used to in your home country. It’s therefore a good idea to head to the New Zealand Transport Authority website and check out its guides to road signage in New Zealand. This research shouldn’t take long, and you’ll be glad you did when you’re travelling.

Here are a few signs to be aware of:

  • Stop: This octagonal, red sign means you must come to a complete stop and give way to any traffic.
  • Give way: This red-and-white triangular sign means you must slow down and give way, coming to a stop if necessary. Some give way signs have 3 arrows forming a circle, indicating that you are approaching a roundabout.
  • No entry: This red, circular sign has the words “No entry” on it, and it means just that. You cannot enter the road you are approaching.

Be mindful of the weather

When in New Zealand, keep an eye on weather forecasts and road condition updates. These can also be found on the NZTA website. Be prepared for sudden weather changes. Drive cautiously and reduce speed when encountering rain, fog, or icy conditions.

You should always ensure that your vehicle's headlights, wipers, and tires are in good working condition, but it’s especially important when you might encounter hazardous weather. Make sure to give yourself extra time to reach your destination in adverse weather conditions.

If conditions are severe, consider postponing your trip or seeking alternative transportation.

Beware of dangerous roads

New Zealand might not have extraordinarily high road death tolls or world-famous dangerous roads, but there are a few routes any traveller should be mindful of.

You can find out more about the top 10 most dangerous roads in New Zealand here. Below are a few notorious selections.

  • Skippers Canyon: Skippers Canyon is so dangerous you need a permit to drive on it. It features winding roads and hair-raising drops.
  • Crown Range Road: Crown Range Road is the highest main road in New Zealand and is known for its steep and winding sections.
  • The Forgotten World Highway: This remote and isolated road is a stunning scenic adventure, but it is narrow, winding, and has some unsealed sections.

Carry snow chains

Winter driving in New Zealand often requires the use of snow chains in certain areas. It is important to check the weather conditions and road reports before embarking on your journey. If snow chains are required, ensure that you have them on hand and know how to properly install them on your vehicle's tires.

Remember to drive at a safe and cautious speed when using snow chains, as they can impact your vehicle's handling and braking capabilities. It is also crucial to remove the snow chains when driving on clear roads to avoid damage to your tires and the road surface.

Distance and petrol

If you are road-tripping in rural areas, particularly on the South Island, you may be surprised at how infrequently you come across petrol stations. Make sure to keep an eye on your petrol tank at all times, and do some research to find out when your next chance to fill up will arrive.

When in doubt, fill your car up when you have the opportunity. It is better to be safe than sorry; running out of fuel in a remote area can be incredibly inconvenient.

Take regular breaks

Long drives can be tiring, so it's important to take regular breaks to rest and rejuvenate. This is especially true if you have just disembarked from a long-haul international flight. It’s best to spend the night in a hotel before taking on any long drives.

Traditional wisdom dictates that you should pull over for a rest at least once every 2 hours. Pull over at designated rest areas or scenic viewpoints. Considering how stunningly beautiful New Zealand is, you shouldn’t find this to be too much of a punishment!

New Zealand is a gorgeous country replete with beautiful destinations to explore. It’s no wonder so many travellers choose a self-driving holiday to check it out. Follow these tips and you can be sure you’ll have a safe and stress-free holiday to remember.