Published: Wed, Apr 4th, 2012

Changes to Road and Driving Laws

The Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2011 ('the Act') was implemented last year as a response to public demands for better protection for young drivers. Calls for legal reform were motivated by the over-representation of young drivers in crash statistics.

The 2010 Ministry of Transport 'Young Driver Crash Facts' document reported that drivers aged 15-24 were involved in 112 fatal crashes, 755 serious injury crashes and 3617 minor injury crashes for the year ended 31 December 2009.

The Act introduces significant changes to our road laws such as the blood alcohol concentration level for drivers aged 20 or younger being decreased from 0.03 to zero. The minimum age for obtaining a driver's licence has been increased from 15 to 16 years, along with further restrictions on the eligibility criteria for applying for licences in each category. As of 1 August 2011, the minimum criteria for obtaining a licence are as follows:

  • Learner licence 16 years old.
  • Restricted licence 16½ years old. Must have held a learner licence for at least six months.
  • Full licence (option 1) 18 years old. Must have held a restricted licence for at least 18 months.
  • Full licence (option 2) 17½ years old. Must have held a restricted licence for at least 12 months, and have completed an approved advanced driving course.

Further Changes

Stricter impositions on restricted licences are expected to come into force early this year. These include making the practical driving tests more challenging. Learner drivers will also be encouraged to gain at least 120 hours of supervised driving experience before attempting their restricted licence tests. Although no proof is necessary, the challenging practical tests are designed to allow only those with sufficient driving experience to be successful.

Transitional Provisions

The Act provides transitional provisions for drivers who entered the application process prior to 1 August 2011.


A driver may be granted an exemption to obtain a restricted licence at an age younger than 16½ if they:

  • are at least 16 years old,
  • have held a learner licence for at least 6 months, and
  • have a clean driving record.

A driver may be granted an exemption to obtain a full licence at an age younger than 18 if they:

  • are at least 16 years old,
  • have held a restricted licence for at least 18 months (reduced to 12 months if they have successfully completed an approved advanced driving course), and
  • have a clean driving record

Changes to 'Give-Way Rules'

Major changes are also set to take place in March this year in relation to our give-way rules. From 25 March 2012 at 5:00 am, all traffic turning right will be required to give way to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and turning left at cross-roads, T-intersections and driveways where:

  • both vehicles are facing each other with no signs or signals,
  • both vehicles are facing give way signs,
  • both vehicles are facing stop signs, or
  • both vehicles are facing green traffic signals.

For further information on this matter, please visit road-user-rule.htm

Please contact Douglas Mitchell or Courtney Anderson if you have any queries regarding the use of our roads.

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