What does it take to drive in another country, beyond cheap car insurance?
It could be more difficult than you might think – many of those travelling to New Zealand and planning to road trip might be caught off guard by things that the locals take for granted, like driving on the left-hand side of the road!
We’ve put together this handy checklist for any tourists planning on road-tripping in Aotearoa.
Studies have proven that driving tired can put you at nearly the same amount of risk as driving drunk.
Make sure you drive fresh, and if you start to feel sleepy, pull over to rest, or swap driving responsibilities with someone else.
Keep in mind that food and drink which spike your blood sugar could lead to a crash, which won’t help on the road either.
The New Zealand road rules tend to be quite strict – one of them makes it illegal to use your phone while driving.
Keeping it turned off or well out of reach is the best way to avoid a hefty fine!
You don’t want to be snapped by a traffic officer the second you pick it up to take a call.
There are other distractions beyond phones, such as eating and drinking, which are best done while pulled over.
It’s also the law that everyone in a moving vehicle must have a seatbelt on.
As the driver, you are responsible for the charges if any one of your passengers isn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Keep an eye on your following distance.
Try not to be too close behind the car in front of you – especially when travelling in a convoy on winding mountain roads.
If they stop suddenly, you don’t want to get caught in a fender bender.
The best way to ensure you have enough space is to apply the two-second rule – pick an upcoming sign or tree on the side of the road, starting counting when the car ahead of you passes it, and then if you pass it yourself before you get to two, you know you’re a touch too close.
In bad weather, like thick fog or snow, it’s best to change this to four seconds.
The alcohol laws in New Zealand are a little tighter than elsewhere in the world too.
The limit for drinking alcohol and driving is a little lower than in the United States, and for drivers under 20 years old, it’s illegal to have any amount of alcohol in your system at all.
Random, mandatory breath tests are fairly common on New Zealand roads, and the local police have the equipment to carry out blood alcohol level tests easily too.
The country treats drinking and driving as a serious offense, and getting caught could lead to you losing your license.
Take the time before you hit the highway to get yourself acquainted with how your indicators and lights work, as they may be backwards to how you expect if coming from overseas.
You don’t want to be suddenly caught needing the hazard lights without knowing where they are!
New Zealand’s country roads are arguably more dangerous than highways.
Some country roads have the same speed limit as highways – around 100 km/h – and involve added dangers, such as animals straying on the road.
It’s also likely that there may be slower farming vehicles, like tractors, using the edges of the roads too, so you do need to be ready to slow down and pass them.
The weather can be a major hazard on New Zealand’s roads.
It’s prone to change quickly and drastically, so it’s very important to adjust your speed down when you enter inclement weather.
Read ahead! Check out your map, or a maps app on your phone, and take note of anything strange on the way.
New Zealand’s country roads often feature one-way bridges, tunnels, gorges, and potentially even some unsealed roads, depending on where you are going.
Finally, make sure you’re not being distracted by your passengers.
Designating the front-seat passenger for music and directions are great ways they can help you without being distracting, not to mention swapping with you if you need a nap to stay fresh on the road.
No matter how responsibly you drive, there’s always the chance that someone else is going to have an accident right in front of you, so it pays to have the best insurance.
When travelling, shopping around to find the cheapest insurance is key.
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