This page has News and information about new legislation and road safety strategies, and planned legislation.

Hazards in the city centre

Recently we did two 20 minute drives of the Thorndon end of the Wellington City Centre, and noted all the hazards encountered, as part of an instructor training session. It was early afternoon on a fine day.

If you think driving in the city centre is a breeze, then have a look at our list.

Here's some of the things we observed:

It's a risky business driving in the city or an urban area. You need to keep your wits about you and your observation skills need to be top notch! Good luck out there!

Reactions to a failed test

Some people react really badly when they fail a driving test. Threats and accusations are hurled at testing officers quite often when people believe they did no wrong in their tests. If you fail your test, you should treat it as a learning experience and work to do better next time. Remember, the testing officers are just doing their jobs and marking your performance according to a set of criteria on their marking sheet.

See the full article on Stuff.

NCEA credits for gaining drivers licence

The New Zealand Class 1 Driver Licence unit standards are now available to learners enrolled in a school or registered tertiary education organisation (TEO) which holds consent to assess for the 'Driver Licence Class 1' domain.

There are three standards:

See also these resources from the Driving Tests website which explains the credit system for parents and teachers.

Driving while texting

Watch this amazing video where young learner drivers are told they must text while they drive as it is part of the new driving test. They all conclude it is impossible to do and keep safe. We agree too!

How Distractions can kill

Driver distraction is one of the biggest factors in teen accidents, with 21 fatal accidents, 170 injury accidents and 1133 minor accidents in New Zealand in 2013 listing driver distraction as a contributing factor. Read this article from the Driving Tests website which explains all the different types of distractions, and view the graph. When you see that, you'll understand why Distractions and how to avoid them are such a big part of the defensive driving course curriculum.

GPS speed readings not accepted by Police

The Stuff website recently reported that the Police will not accept GPS speed readings to contest speeding fines despite automotive specialists claiming GPSs are extremely accurate.

This is because GPS devices were not set to strict international standards and may not be truly accurate, despite industry experts advice to the contrary.

So if you are out and about this summer, do not rely on your GPS or cruise control to observe the correct speed. You should drive slightly below the posted speed limit to be sure.

Slow down at bus stops

A recent indicent where a 14 year old was flung 15 metres after being hit by a car just as he got off a school bus has highlighted the problems of driving past school buses.

Drivers must travel 20 kilometres an hour when passing a parked school bus on either side of the road when passengers are embarking or disembarking.

Breaking the law leads to a court appearance and the potential for a $1,000 fine.

Some areas in New Zealand are piloting flashing road and bus-mounted signs, but driver awareness of the rules is still low.

If you see a bus stopped at a bus stop loading or unloading school children, be prepared to slow down and observe the correct speed limit.

This is why driver training is crucial!

View this video on Stuff which surfaced recently showing a Chinese driver reversing out of a carpark. Admittedly the space was tight, but some expert driver training would have helped prevent this situation. Unfortunately RoadSmart doesn't operate in China!

Fewer young drivers killed on the roads

Authorities believe that tougher licensing tests, raising the minimum driving age and a crackdown on drink-driving are being heralded as key drivers behind the drop in young drivers being killed or injured on New Zealand roads, saving the country $451 million in four years.

While some old habits still persist, young drivers are now finding that driver education through attendance at Defensive Driving Courses, and plenty of on-road experience is helping train young people with safer driving skills.

Read the full story on the Stuff website.

Lower drink-driving limits came into force on 1 December 2014

The Land Transport Amendment Act (no 2) 2014 lowers the allowable blood alcohol content (BAC) from 0.08g to 0.05g per 100mls of blood when driving. The act also reduces the current breath alcohol limit from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250 micrograms.

The purpose of the legislation is to make New Zealand's roads safer by adopting an evidence-based approach to the level of specified breath and blood alcohol levels, by lowering the specified levels.

The Government says that drink driving continues to cause fatalities and serious injuries on our roads, with long term emotional or physical trauma to many people and their families each year. Despite improving attitudes having had a marked effect on the incidence of drink driving, it remains a significant issue.

New Zealand allows its drivers to consume a much larger quantity of alcohol and remain able to drive a motor vehicle than most other countries, including Australia.

In order to complement the work the Government is doing with its Safer Journeys road safety strategy, the act reduces the amount of alcohol adults are able to consume if they wish to drive a vehicle.

There is demonstrable evidence and research already available which shows enough driver impairment between the proposed .05 limit and the 0.08 limit to warrant action. A drug and alcohol expert from the United Kingdom has estimated that this measure could reduce our road toll by two-thirds as it would alter driver behaviour.

Under the changes, the penalty for returning a positive test between 50mg and 80mg would be a $200 fine and 50 demerit points. Testing positive to more than 80mg would remain a criminal offence.

Data collected by the police over the past 22 months shows 53 drivers were involved in fatal and serious injury crashes with blood alcohol readings of between 51 and 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

A two-year review has shown that the social cost of injuries and fatalities from drink-drivers is $446 million, and 3.4 lives would have been saved if a 30mg reduction in the legal limit had been imposed.

Links to more information: Land Transport Amendment Act; Stuff articles: Drink-drive change bows to popular view, and Drink drive limit lowered; Driving Tests website article.

Effects of Speed and Weed

Liberalised marijuana laws in the United States has public officials worried that more drivers high on pot will lead to a big increase in traffic deaths.

Studies show that marijuana can slow decision-making, decrease peripheral vision and impede multitasking, all of which are critical driving skills. Drivers high on pot tend to be aware that they are impaired and try to compensate by driving slowly, avoiding risky actions such as passing other cars, and allowing extra room between vehicles.

Everyone knows it is a big problem, and here in New Zealand, there have been several cases recently where drug-impaired drivers have caused crashes. Examples are:

The penalties for drug-impaired driving in New Zealand are tough, and could involve fines or lengthy prison sentences. Read more on the NZ Transport Authority website.

5 year time limit for holding learner and restricted licences

The Government has announced that are time limits on learner and restricted licences in changes that have been passed into law through a transport rule change. The new rule came into force on 1 December 2014.

The 5 year time limit applies only to learner and restricted car and motorcycle licence holders, and not to learner heavy motor vehicle licence holders.

This means that novice drivers or motorcycle riders who don't move on to the next stage of the Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS) within five years will have to take another theory test.

The Government hopes the changes will encourage drivers and riders move through the licence system in a timely way, while gaining the skills and experience needed to drive safely.

See the Stuff article, and the Ministry of Transport website announcement. See also the Driving Tests website.

New Warrant of Fitness rules

The NZTA website reports that vehicles first registered anywhere in the world on or after 1 January 2004 (i.e. up to nine years old) moved to annual WoF inspections for their lifetime.

From 1 July 2014, vehicles first registered anywhere in the world on or after 1 January 2000 will also move to an annual WoF for their lifetime. For new vehicles, after an initial inspection, another WoF inspection won't be required until the 3rd anniversary of their first registration.

The changes are based on a vehicle's date of first registration in New Zealand or overseas, and are described in more detail on their Warrant of Fitness webpage.

Make sure the Warrant of Fitness on your vehicle is correct when using it for a driving test. The dates can sneak up on you, especially during winter months. Make sure your warrant is up to date at all times.

Tourists on our roads

In 2013 2.9% of our road toll was caused by tourists. This isn't a huge percentage when you consider that nearly 3 million people visit New Zealand every year. Almost 60% are from Australia or the UK, both of which drive on the left.

There is now a special Driving Tests - Tourist webpage to help overseas visitors learn the essential road rules to keep them and local drivers safe on our roads.

Are you a distracted driver?

The NZTA's current driver distraction campaign currently focuses on young passengers that distract their drivers and drivers who use a mobile phone when driving. Have a look on the NZTA - Driver Distraction webpage.

Long weekend driving tips

Here's some driving tips for suriving a long weekend, especially if you are travelling out of town. Checking your vehicle is up to scratch mechnically, and knowing how to drive your vehicle properly are two very good safety tips. This article on Stuff has more good ideas you can check out.

New SmartDriver app

Insurer Tower has launched a smartphone app that tracks driver behaviour and rewards safe drivers with cheaper vehicle insurance premiums. The SmartDriver app uses smartphone sensors and GPS to track a vehicle's speed, acceleration, braking and cornering. Download the app from links on the Tower website.

Advertisements target drivers

Shot from Mistakes advertisement.

"Mistakes" is the latest NZ Transport Agency advertisement targeting speeding drivers. It aims to reduce deaths and injuries on the road. Have you seen it? Check out this news item on the Stuff website.

Restricted Driver Crash Rate Alarms

An article on the Stuff website by Michael Forbes quoting results from an Otago University study, says that teen drivers on restricted licences are crashing at an alarming rate and routinely flouting the law, with the study suggesting parents are partly to blame.

The study had showed that common among the teenagers who crashed was the fact they had parents who did not enforce good driving or had a history of bad driving themselves.

The Facts

How RoadSmart Driver Training can help you

We offer a 5 lesson-10 practice session package for $775.00 in the RoadSmart training vehicle, or your own vehicle. This equates to about 20 hours professional driver tuition. The remaining 100 hours of practice required can be supervised by a parent or guardian in your own vehicle.

This will help reduce the bad habits from parents in the initial stages being passed on to learners. RoadSmart recommends learner drivers keep a log in a notebook of their driving hours and distances so they can see how they are progressing.

Pretest sessions can also help confirm that the learner driver is ready for their next test.

More details can be found on the NZTA website under Licences, and questions on the News page.

Cellphone Use

Changes have been made to the Land Transport (Road User) Amendment Rule 2009 and the Land Transport Amendment Act 2009. These changes came into effect on 1 November 2009. The following is copied from the NZ Transport Agency website:

Cellphones - The official New Zealand road code, page 133

The following text replaces the information in the Cellphones section:

While you are driving, you cannot create, send, or read a text message on a mobile phone or use a hand-held mobile phone to make, receive or end a phone call. This includes accessing online services in any way.

You can, however, use your mobile phone to make, receive or terminate a telephone call while driving if the phone is secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle and you manipulate the phone infrequently and briefly.

You can also use a mobile phone while driving to make a 111 or *555 call if it is unsafe or impractical to pull over and stop in a safe place at the side of the road to make the call.

Driver distraction - The official New Zealand road code, page 133

The following text replaces the third bullet point under Driver distractions:

"Talking on a hands free cellphone"

Where can I read more about this?

You can read this and other updates to the Road Code on the New Zealand Transport Agency website.