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

Is your licence going to expire soon?

Drivers with a learner or restricted licence close to expiry will be given an automatic two-year extension. This means that motorists holding a current five-year learner, restricted or motorbike licence expiring between December 1, 2019 and December 1, 2021 will receive the extension. The extension is a short-term measure to avert the potential for thousands of drivers becoming unlicensed over the next two years. The reprieve would give learner and restricted drivers more time to get their full licence, improve their driving skills or save up to pay for the test. It's possible that many drivers are not aware that their licence is time-limited. Have you checked your licence to confirm when it expires? Get it out now and have a look.

Recent news snippets

Here's a few news snippets which demonstrate some of the key points taught on the Defensive Driving Course.

Drugged drivers overtake drunk drivers

According to the AA, drug-impaired drivers are now involved in more fatal crashes on New Zealand roads than drunk-drivers. Last year 79 drivers who were involved in fatal crashes tested positive for drugs, compared to 70 who were above the legal limit or refused to be tested. In 2013, the number of drug-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes was just 14, compared with 53 who were intoxicated or avoided tests.

Drivers who had taken prescription medications above recommended levels, or those known to impair driving, were included in the figures. But the two most commonly-detected drugs (excluding alcohol) were cannabis and methamphetamine. People believe police should be given the power to carry out roadside saliva-based drug tests.

Participants on the Defensive Driving Course discusses this issue in depth and encourages students not to drive drugged!

Fatigued driver crashes

A tractor driver who was helping with harvesting operations was so tired after a 200 hour working fortnight he drove off the road to his death. The farm worker clocked up 197.25 hours in the two weeks leading up to the crash including a 16.75 hour day before leaving the farm, taking a tractor home in preparation for the next day's work. At 2.45am he crashed the tractor and died as a result of his injuries. The driver was also not wearing a seatbelt. A WorkSafe investigation found that fatigue was the most likely cause of the accident.

Turning down a ride home proves fatal

When someone offers you a ride home after a night out drinking, it's our advice to take it. Unfortunately a young apprentice plumber in Central Otago decided to go home in a vehicle driven by friends who had also been drinking. He never made it home and his family are devastated.

Distracted driver hits cyclists

A moment of inattention as he changed the radio in his truck was the reason a driver gave for not seeing two cyclists on the road near Twizel before he hit them, killing one and injuring the other. Paying attention to the road ahead and giving cyclists a wide safety cushion is crucial for everyone's safety.

Car explodes after crash

A police officer and member of the public freed a young man from a burning car shortly before it exploded following a crash into a paddock. The driver was lapsing in and out of consciousness and was badly injured. His rescuers were just metres away when the car exploded, flinging debris in all directions. We applaud the two heroes who saved the driver's life. Going in to help in this situation is risky, but luckily everyone made it out alive

Driving in school zones

A seven-year-old girl was killed after a collison with a truck while she was cycling home from school. Initial investigations show that the truck had been turning out of a street and the cyclist had been riding along the footpath when the accident happened. Taking care when driving in urban areas near school zones is very important.

Drugs and driving don't mix

A driver caused the death of another person in a crash when driving under the influence of drugs, and with children in the back seat. Driving while drugged means the probability of something happen increases, and the consequences can prove fatal.

Railway level crossings need caution

A driver was heading across the railway tracks which had compulsory stop signs, but no barriers when his ute and a train collided. The driver died. The train stopped about 400 metres down the track and the ute's engine was ripped away from the vehicle. Stop means STOP at a level crossing, and you should look both ways. Always assume there is a train coming!

"Sleep driving" no defence

Taking medication which causes drowsiness and alcohol together is a lethal combination for a driver. It may cause slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, staggering and memory loss for a driver involved in a crash as one driver in the United States was found. The defence of "sleep driving" was not upheld by the judge. Another well-known golf star also caused a crash while in a similar drugged state. If you're on prescription medication, check the package label carefully to see if it can cause drowsiness and whether you should consume alcohol at the same time. If you're not sure, err on the side of caution and don't drive.

Animals cause crashes

A vehicle in a rural area collided with a herd of loose cattle, leaving a number of cows injured. Luckily the driver was not hurt. In Australia, a woman was driving a four-door hatchback when she hit a wombat, the native Australian animal, lost control of the vehicle and collided with an oncoming utility. Another story involves a driver who overtook another car and hit a horse while moving back to their lane. The large black animal was in the middle of the road at night. The van drifted after the impact and rolled into a ditch. Our advice is to take special care in rural areas, and at dusk and dawn.

Alcohol stays in your blood for up to 24 hours

A driver caused a motorcyclist and pillion passenger to crash into his vehicle while performing a u-turn at 10 am one morning, resulting in considerable injuries as they were unable to avoid the turning vehicle. The driver was found to be still over the legal alcohol limit after drinking the previous night until midnight. He had to pay considerable reparation to the victims. This highlights the point that alcohol can remain in your blood system for up to 24 hours after consuming the last drink, even though you may feel okay.

Distracted driving on the rise

Drivers are being snapped holding takeaway coffee cups in their hands preventing them from using indicators and making unsafe lane changes. Driving while talking on cellphones is also a huge distraction. We believe you should have both hands on the wheel when driving, so put down your coffee cups and cellphones, and concentrate on the road ahead. Being caught with a phone in hand currently results in an $80 fine and 20 demerit points. Unsafe passing can incur a $150 fee or a fine of up to $1,000.

Pull over and stop

When a police officer signals you to pull over and stop, do it! There's plenty of stories of drivers fleeing the police and ending up causing a crash, sometimes with fatal consequences. Usually the reasons for taking off include being disqualified, drunk or being wanted by the police. You should always stop when signalled by the police as your safety and that of other drivers on the road is paramount.

Buckle up!

One of the major findings of a recent study is that people in rural areas, driving for work, tourists and the elderly are not buckling up. Over the last decade, on average 20% of vehicle occupants who died in crashes were not wearing seatbelts. Even though the seat belt was invented nearly 60 years ago, this surprising statistic shows that people still don't consider the seatbelt to be a lifesaving device. We do, and we urge all drivers and passengers to buckle up when in a moving vehicle - it's just plain commonsense.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.