Staying safe on New Zealand’s roads

Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) has released a series of new handbooks outlining a wide range of options for older people (and those that support them) when it comes to getting around. These include driver safety tips, road rules refreshers, an overview of different transport options, advice on supporting senior drivers and information about renewing your driver’s license.

With permission from Waka Kotahi, we have taken some excerpts from its Driving safely as a senior handbook and website to keep you safe on the roads. You can download the full handbook for free from the Waka Kotahi website or request free hardcopies by calling 0800 822 422.

Safe driving tips

  • Drive mainly in daylight hours and when the weather is good.
  • Drive on routes you know well.
  • Share driving with someone else.
  • Consider walking or using other ways of getting around for short distances. This will save you money and help keep you fit.
  • Always wear your glasses and/or hearing aids if you have been prescribed them.
  • Have an annual vision check-up if you don’t wear glasses.
  • If you do wear glasses and/or use hearing aids, stay up to date with your optometrist/audiology appointments.
  • Wear sunglasses when it is sunny and don’t wear sunglasses at night – talk to your optometrist if glare affects your night vision.
  • Keep your car’s windscreen, mirrors and headlights clean.
  • Make sure you can see the dials on your car’s instrument panel clearly – visit an optometrist if you have difficulty with this.

Staying alert

When you’re driving, you respond to lots of different things at the same time. You also need to react quickly when something unexpected happens. Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Drive during the day, at times when the roads are not so busy.
  • Check street maps, or online maps, to familiarise yourself with the area you’ll be driving in. ‘Street view’, via google maps, may be helpful.
  • Look for changes to road layouts, such as roundabouts or one-way street systems.
  • Plan your route before you leave.
  • Choose a route that you know well.
  • Instead of taking the quickest route, you might want to plan a longer route that is less busy and has less intersections. Some people plan routes that avoid right turns across busy intersections.
  • If you’re thinking of making a long journey, you could ‘park and ride’, where you drive to the nearest public transport point and take public transport for the remainder of your journey.
  • Leave plenty of room between yourself and the car in front when driving. This gives you more time to react and stop safely. You should have at least a 2-second gap in good weather and at least a 4-second gap in bad weather.
  • The 4-second gap rule also applies if you are towing a trailer, or you are being tailgated.
  • If you are being tailgated, keep calm, and pull over slowly when it is safe to do so.
  • As you drive, keep checking the sides of the road and the way ahead.
  • Check your rear-view mirrors regularly.
  • The roads can be very slippery when it rains after a week or more of no rain. This is known as ‘summer ice’ and is caused by a build-up of oil, dust and other grime. This is similar to ‘black ice’ in winter. Shortly after the rain starts is the riskiest time – follow the 4-second rule in these situations.
  • Information on winter driving is available at:
  • Stay alert to sounds outside your car, such as ambulance or fire engine sirens.
  • Don’t let yourself be distracted by conversation and background noises such as the radio.
  • Tips for handling driving emergencies such as skids and tyre blow-outs are available at:

All handbooks can be downloaded for from free from the Waka Kotahi website or you can request free hardcopies by calling 0800 822 422.

About Waka Kotahi

Waka Kotahi I NZ Transport Agency