Now I would like to point out that I love New Zealand. I choose to live here, and they were nice enough to let me stay, just they have some of the strangest driving laws in the world.
Let’s start with a simple one. You are happily driving along the road and you want to turn left. No drama there. You look in your mirror like the nice man in a tweed jacket told you to do when you were learning, indicate and start to turn. As you get to the turning some good old boy in a Ford Falcon (V8 of course) swings across the road coming from the other direction and turns in front of you and carries on up the road like he has the right to cut you off. The strange thing is he does. Now as odd as this seems, this rule seems to work when you get used to it. The problems occur when you have two lanes in each direction. Then no one seems to have a clue who should go. Occasionally you get into a standoff position, where everyone is waiting for someone else to move. This happens mostly when you bring the next random rule into the equation.
This is hard to explain so try to keep up. You are waiting to turn right off the main road onto a side street; there is a car on the side street waiting to turn right out onto the road you are on. With me so far? Who has right of way here then? Well that depends. If there are give way lines across the end of the side street then you have right of way, if however there are not and it is a minor road then the other car has the right to turn out before you turn in. Confused? I am. Throw into that a car coming towards you wanting to turn left and you have potential for your brain to explode.
I heard another example of madness the other day which I so hope isn’t true. I was told, by a kiwi, that you are supposed to indicate right if you are going straight across a roundabout. Why? That is just going to confuse everyone even more. People have enough trouble with roundabouts as it is. Just for the Americans out there. A roundabout is a means of keeping the traffic moving without the need for traffic lights.
There are several other things about driving in New Zealand that you have to be aware of. Firstly if you are driving along the road it pays to watch where you are going. Sounds simple, but you follow someone down the road the first time they drive through the central south island and it’s a bit like chasing a drunken sheep.
Other things that I don’t think are law, but seem to be the norm are: Drive at 10km below the speed limit until you get to a passing lane and then speed up to 20km above the limit to make sure any following traffic can’t get past. Alternatively drive so close to the back of the car in front that you could actually have sex with any rear seat passengers. Wait there until there is a suitable blind bend, before overtaking and slowing to just below the speed the car in front was originally travelling.
Before the entire population of New Zealand hunts me down, I’m not talking about you of course; it’s the other people who do things like that.
All in all though, it is a great country to drive through. Thirty minutes out of town and you will have the road to yourself. Take your time and stop to look at the country around you. If you are driving a big camper van or just taking your time through the countryside, if you have cars behind you, pull over and let them pass.
Just because you are on holiday, it doesn’t mean everyone is. For the official things you should know have a look here: Land Transport - Driving in New Zealand
For the record, I drive a Subaru Legacy station wagon, the official form of transport of the New Zealander. If you want to blend in as a local, I suggest you do the same.
About the Author: Mick Bates went on a wander from Newcastle, England a few years ago. Trip advisor on facebook tells him he's been to about 140 cities in 20 countries, so lots more to see yet. He is as miserable as he seems.