Coming to New Zealand didn’t really carry much worry from a point of view of driving. We headed out in our first week to look at buying a car so we could start to take advantage of our new surroundings (and build a credit rating with a small loan!).
They drive on the left side of the road here…did you know that around 35% of the world population do so? This is mostly in former British colonies or islands and the inclusion of India really drives that stat…although I often wonder what happens to a car crossing a border between two neighbouring countries which drive on opposite sides (which does happen in Africa and Asia)?
Anyway, some things about driving in NZ…
1. Car insurance is not compulsory…but living in Auckland, it is sensible…there are so many immigrants who learnt to drive to different standards that it is best not to take the risk. For my UK readers, if you have ever driven somewhere like Bradford, you will understand this.
2. It is only recently that the rules changed to stop cars turning onto a main road having priority over those waiting to turn off. Thank goodness…although some people seem to conveniently forget!
3. While you would typically wait for the traffic lights to turn left at a junction, this seems to regularly have the common sense that you can just give way and filter in if nothing is coming (less red lights to worry about!).
4. You can overtake on both sides of a moving vehicle…but best to just “drive British” and keep left I find.
5. Distances are in KM and speeds in KM/H.
6. Indicators seem to generally be on the right side of the steering wheel which is weird.
7. The road signs and road markings look like American ones in the font style and colours.
8. Tourists have a bad name in terms of causing accidents and we discovered that the locals are quite happy to report anything out of the ordinary to the police and car rental firms when we happened to do something unusual while on holiday! Dangerous Driving…I think not. I’m British, don’t you know!
9. Speed cameras are not obviously visible. And you only get demerit points on your licence if the police physically stop you for speeding…otherwise just a fine.
10. As a nation, there is a real problem with drink driving and drinking as a rule. A lot of TV advertising deals with saying “nah” to the Beersies. See point 1 (above).
11. Whereas in the UK, you can often navigate by pubs, this is not the case in NZ and it can be harder to find your way around Auckland…especially as houses follow no uniform pattern at all.
12. Lorries do the same speed as cars, there are generally passing lanes going uphill on longer stretches too. Seems sensible.
13. Unlucky for some. While I would never claim to be the world’s best driver, I do think that people from the UK are used to driving in heavy traffic with a lot of rules which makes them generally better drivers. The Kiwis, as in life, are generally laid back and drive around like they are on isolated country roads. Doors can be flung open (wide) without a second thought, they think that they can just pull out in front of moving vehicles. You have to have your wits about you.
14. Last thing, when it comes to moving lane, in the UK, people will generally flash you to let you in to traffic when you indicate. In NZ, no such thing exists, you indicate and you move into the gap. No niceties except the laidbackness (if that be a new word)…although I do like to wave to say thanks.
Still not much to worry about though. Once you get out of Auckland, navigation is easy…sweet as!
One final thing…I have now got a New Zealand driving licence and you are allowed to smile on the photo!