New Zealand is full of distracting scenery, winding roads, the challenge of driving on the left for those used to driving on the right, and the problems caused by jet lag when visitors drive here. Therefore the hundreds of thousands of people per year who choose to take a self-drive holiday in the North or South Island put themselves at risk if they are unaware of the road rules and the simple guidelines to stay safe.
Visiting drivers can drive in New Zealand for up to one year on their international driver licence without sitting a driving test. It's possible for them to hire a car or motorhome and drive on unfamiliar roads with the steering wheel on the opposite side of the vehicle that they are used to, having to observe signs and road markings they are unfamiliar with. Therefore a signature programme has been developed to help with educating these drivers and also making the roads safer to drive on for all users.
The Safer Journeys Guidelines have been developed by NZTA, the Tourism Industry Association of NZ, Police and a number of rental vehicle companies such as Jucy, Tourism Holdings, Hertz and Spaceships. They outline a set of guidelines rental vehicle owners can use to help visiting drivers be aware of our rules. There are several recommended resources in the guidelines including this road code quiz and this page about driving from Tourism NZ.
Additionally, NZTA is working with other agencies on making the roads safer which includes assessing the road layout, markings and signage, especially around areas popular with tourists.
An initial programme aimed at drivers on a foreign licence is being trialled in the south of the South Island - this area experiences a disproportionately high number of tourist crashes.
Many vehicle rental companies are already making the recommendations and sending the road code quiz when a client books a vehicle from overseas.
The basic guidelines for visitor drivers are:
While the majority of tourists crash for the same reason that New Zealanders crash (inattention, tiredness or inappropriate speed), some do crash through failure to observe our Road Code. A mixture of education and proactively changing road characteristics is aiming at reducing the number of injuries and deaths on New Zealand roads where tourists are involved.