The minimum driving age in New Zealand is 16 years. In recognition of the high rate of crashes involving young drivers, the new restricted driving test is much more stringent than the previous version, leading to a lower pass rate. This can be frustrating for some, but the good news is that if you practice and put in the time, you'll be much less likely to have a costly accident.
What can young drivers do to reduce the risk?
- Make sure you get around 120 hours of practical driving experience before sitting the restricted license test. This will not only help you pass the test, it'll make you a safer driver.
- Study for your test using an up-to-date version of the road code. You want to make sure you're following the correct road rules!
- Find a mentor. An experienced driver can have plenty of wisdom to impart. They can give you encouragement and driving tips that will help you drive safely. They'll also spot hazards that you may not, and be able to point them out to you.
- Do a defensive, or advanced driving skills course. Not only will this reduce your time on a restricted licence (from 18 to 12 months, if you're under 25), but it will add to your skills and make you a much safer driver.
- Remember that, as a young driver, you shouldn’t consume any alcohol before driving; the blood alcohol limit for drivers under the age of 20 is zero.
Follow some simple rules
Driving well is often a matter of knowledge and experience. Here are a few essentials from the New Zealand Transport Association (NZTA), to keep in mind when driving:
- Scan the road: The earlier you spot a potential hazard, the better. Look well ahead of you when you are driving, not just at the car in front of you. Things to look out for include cars pulling out of carparks or driveways, and pedestrians that might venture onto the road (particularly children, who may not have knowledge of road rules or how to cross the road safely).
- Keep your eyes moving: Don’t just look ahead of you while driving, use your mirrors to be aware of what’s going on to the sides of the car as well as behind you.
- Create a safety cushion: Leave a safe distance in all directions between you, other vehicles, and any other potential hazards. Use the two-second rule, or the four-second rule when appropriate (such as in bad weather).
- Drive to the speed limit: Even if other drivers are zipping past at higher speeds, make a rule to stick to the speed limit, no matter what. You'll be glad you did when you have to stop suddenly.
- Don’t get distracted: Music, talking to passengers, a ringing mobile phone, passing scenery and even roadside advertising can all distract you. Never take your eyes off the road for longer than is necessary.
- Identify escape routes: If you find yourself about to collide with another vehicle or hazard, you should already be aware of possible escape routes. Identify these before you ever need them so that you can quickly take action. Escape routes might include a hard shoulder or any areas that you could potentially steer into. If there are no escape routes available, increase your following distance and reduce your speed to give yourself plenty of time to respond, should a crash situation develop.
Take advantage of online training
While there is no substitute for practical driving experience, online resources can help you polish your skills or identify areas you might need to work on.