This rule establishes the rules under which traffic operates on roads. It applies to all road users, whether they are drivers, riders, passengers, pedestrians, or leading or droving animals.
Note: Both of these pages will also provide links to the consultation material – such as summary of submissions and FAQs (questions and answers) – for each version and amendment.
Questions and answers are provided to accompany a new rule or amendment when they are signed. These and other consultation documents on this page have not been updated to take into account any later rule amendments and are retained for historic interest only.
This amendment Rule will make changes to the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004(external link) (the Road User Rule).
The amendment Rule (and all its provisions) will come into force on 1 November 2009. Until that date the existing Road User Rule requirements will continue to apply.
The Road User Rule sets out requirements for the safe and efficient use of roads by road users (ie, drivers, riders, passengers, pedestrians and those leading or riding animals).
A significant change in the amendment Rule addresses road safety risks arising from the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. The number of crashes associated with mobile phone use has increased steadily over the last five years.
Evidence exists that using a mobile phone while driving affects driving performance, and can substantially increase the risk of a crash, because of 'driver distraction'. One study has shown that using a mobile phone while driving can increase a driver's risk of being involved in a crash by up to four times. Recent research has also shown the danger in texting and driving.
The full list of provisions in the amendment Rule covered in this document are:
The amendment Rule will come into effect on 1 November 2009.
The Rule has been amended to:
In the amendment Rule a 'mobile phone' is defined as follows:
While driving, a driver may use a mobile phone to make, receive or end a phone call only if they do not have to hold or manipulate the phone in doing so. Or, provided the mobile phone is securely mounted to the vehicle, if the driver manipulates the phone infrequently and briefly. However, drivers must not create, send, or read a text message or use a mobile phone in any other way.
If a driver is stuck in traffic due to the road ahead being blocked, for example because of an accident, they may use their mobile phone to make, send and receive calls and text messages. But this does not apply when drivers are stationary in the normal flow of traffic, such as approaching intersections, traffic lights or roadworks.
The provision banning drivers from using hand-held mobile phones in the Amendment Rule applies to all vehicles and includes cyclists, motorcyclists and riders of mopeds.
'Driver distraction' occurs when a driver's attention is diverted from the task of driving by an object, person, event or activity that is secondary or unconnected to the main task of driving. A large body of research shows that distractions inside a vehicle impair driving performance and safety. Driving is a complex task and requires the use and coordination of various skills – physical, cognitive and sensory. The more a driver's attention is diverted away from the task of driving, the greater is the risk of crashing. The research on driver distraction shows that risk increases as the task becomes more complex, time-consuming and frequent.
Using a mobile phone while driving adds to an already complex task. It involves the driver mastering several different types of physical actions and requires a high degree of cognitive attention. When used while driving, mobile phones can cause distraction by taking a driver's eyes off the road (e.g. when reading a text message), drawing their attention away from the driving task (e.g. when talking), and physically interfering with vehicle control (e.g. when reaching to answer the phone while steering).
'Traditional' distractions, like talking to passengers, tuning the radio, smoking, eating etc, can be modified or reduced during dangerous or demanding traffic situations. For example, passengers are aware of the road environment and will generally let the conversation lapse during a dangerous or complicated driving situation, allowing the driver to concentrate fully on their driving. A person on the other end of a mobile phone, however, would not be aware of any potential hazards and will often continue to talk, distracting the driver at critical moments.
Being distracted can impact on a driver's performance in several ways including:
There have been many studies carried out on this subject. A British study¹ showed that drivers' reaction times to hazards were, on average, 50% slower when using a mobile phone than under normal driving conditions.
¹ Bruns, PC, Parkes, A, Burton, S, Smith RK, Burch, D. How dangerous is driving with a mobile phone?: benchmarking the impairment to alcohol. Crowthorne, Eng: TRL Ltd. A study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) for Direct Line Insurance
A survey conducted in 2004² showed that approximately 65% of New Zealanders owned a mobile phone. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed used a mobile phone, at least occasionally, while driving.
² Sullman, MJM and Baas, PH (2004) Mobile phone use amongst New Zealand drivers. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 7, (2), pp. 95-105
As the capabilities of mobile phones continue to expand, there will be even further opportunities for drivers to be distracted. Already, mobile phones can be used to talk, read and send text messages, take photos, download and play video clips from the internet, navigate the driver to chosen destinations and perform other functions.
A recent study in Western Australia showed that the risk of having a crash increased fourfold when drivers used their phones to send text/SMS messages. There has been a steady rise in the number of people texting while driving, especially among young drivers. A study conducted by Telstra in Australia in 2003 concluded that one in six drivers regularly send text messages when driving. Another study showed that drivers spent 400 percent more time with their eyes off the road when text messaging than when they were not texting.
Legislation, enforcement and raising public awareness can all be used to help reduce crashes. A combination of all of these is likely to be the most effective option for changing driver behaviour and reducing crashes. It is also in line with the approach taken in the best performing road safety countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
While these campaigns will increase awareness among drivers, they are unlikely to change attitudes or behaviour to stop a driver engaging in distracting activity while driving.
International experience has shown that information and education campaigns increase awareness of a road safety problem, but that achieving widespread and lasting driver behaviour change requires legislative measures as well.
Maintaining the status quo was no longer an option as mobile-phone-related crashes are increasing, and public concern about this issue is growing. When using a mobile phone while driving is banned in New Zealand, there will be a real incentive for drivers to stop the practice entirely.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is looking at a number of educational initiatives to raise awareness about the wider issue of driver distraction.
The Road Safety Trust is also working to raise awareness about issues of distraction, including the danger of using mobile phones while driving.
The government is currently developing Safer Journeys, a road safety strategy to take New Zealand through to 2020. In August 2009, it will be seeking public feedback on a discussion document that sets out road safety issues and actions for addressing them, including driver distraction.
A specific ban will make enforcement easier by allowing the Police to issue infringements (instant fines and demerit points) instead of having to prove careless or inconsiderate driving charges via the Court system.
Currently, these charges are normally laid only in relation to serious crashes.
Banning the use of hand-held phones while driving also brings New Zealand into line with the legal requirements of the best-performing road safety jurisdictions. All Australian states and at least 45 countries (including most countries in the European Union) have legislation banning the use of mobile phones while driving.
The most important benefit will be the expected decrease in crashes.
An infringement fee of $80, and 20 demerit points, will be the penalty for those breaching a ban on using mobile phones while driving.
Consultation carried out as part of the development of the Road User Rule in 2002-2003 showed broad support for a ban on using hand-held mobile phones while driving. More recently, there has been growing public support for a ban, and the NZ Automobile Association (76%) and Research New Zealand (86%) polls have confirmed this. Vodafone and Telecom have also come out in support of such a ban.
Mobile phones are an essential business tool, particularly for tradesmen and small businesses, many of whom would be economically disadvantaged without the ability to be contacted while travelling. Mobile phones also provide safety and personal security benefits. A total ban could compromise these benefits.
Research shows that, although the risk of a crash is reduced when using a hands-free phone while driving, the risk of crashing while using a hands-free kit is still higher than when not using a phone at all. This is because the driver using a phone can be distracted by concentrating on the conversation rather than on the road. Some studies have suggested that banning hand-held mobile phone use could reinforce the mistaken belief that hands-free devices present a very low safety risk, and give a false impression that they are entirely safe to use while driving. One way of helping to dispel that perception, will be to ensure that educational messages emphasise the risks associated with all mobile phone use while driving.
There will be enforcement costs associated with banning the use of hand-held mobile phones when driving. These include infringement fee processing and collection costs, and the possible cost of diverting Police enforcement away from other activities.
The main expense for people who need to be able to use a phone while driving would be the purchase of suitable hands-free kits for their vehicles. The costs of these kits start at about $40 each. The preferred alternative, however, would be for drivers to choose to pull over safely to take calls on their mobile phone or to use a messaging option.
When drivers need to cross a special vehicle lane to turn left or get to a parking space they must do it in the minimum length of the lane necessary but no more than 50 metres.
A special vehicle lane is a lane defined by signs and markings that is restricted to a specific class or classes of vehicles. They include bus lanes, transit lanes and cycle lanes.
A distance of 50 metres is roughly equivalent to 10 car lengths.
The existing penalty for those using a special vehicle lane incorrectly will apply. This is an infringement fee of $150.
This amendment states, and clarifies, that seat belts must be worn 'correctly'. This means 'as the manufacturer intended', so the user is properly restrained.
Police have been concerned about the number of people they have observed not wearing their seat belt properly, although the seat belt has been securely fastened. The placement of the seatbelt in these cases has often not provided any protection for the occupant and may have exposed them to greater risk of injury in a crash.
Mopeds and motorcycles riders are required to ride with their headlamps on or, if fitted, daytime running lamps, during daylight hours. This requirement applies only to riders of mopeds or motorcycles manufactured after 1 January1980.
Motorcycle casualties (fatalities plus serious and minor injuries) have increased by almost 80 percent since 2001. While some of the growth in casualties might have been expected as a result of the 28 percent increase in motorcycles being licensed over the same period, the large increase in casualties is a concern.
Furthermore, in that period the cost of fuel rose, and continuing fluctuations in the cost of fuel, may make motorcycle ownership and use attractive. It is important that best-practice motorcycle safety initiatives are put in place to deal with this growing road safety problem.
The proposed penalty will be an infringement fee of $100.
Motorcyclist safety has been proposed as a high priority for Safer Journeys road safety strategy to take us through to 2020. From August to 2 October 2009, the public's views will be sought on several road safety issues, including motorcycle safety, and possible actions for addressing them. Following public consultation a final strategy will be released in December 2009.
Cyclists will now be permitted to do a hook turn at intersections when turning right unless there is a sign prohibiting the manoeuvre.
A hook turn allows cyclists to turn right at intersections safely by:
It is often difficult for cyclists, particularly those who are inexperienced or otherwise less able, to make a right turn at major junctions. In these circumstances they are often required to move from the extreme left of the approach road to the centre across two or more lanes of traffic.
An exception is made in the amendment Rule to allow a road controlling authority to permit mopeds or motorcycles to be used on footpaths for delivering newspapers, mail or other printed material to letterboxes.
The moped or motorcycle rider will have to give way to pedestrians, mobility devices or wheeled recreational devices being used on the footpath. However, a pedestrian and a rider of a mobility device or wheeled recreational device is not allowed to unduly hinder a moped or motorcycle being used legally on the footpath for delivering newspapers, mail or other printed material to letterboxes.
The riders must not operate at a speed that constitutes a hazard to other footpath users and must operate the vehicle in a careful and considerate manner. 10 km/h or less is the recommended speed in areas which are shared by vehicles and pedestrians.
Postal delivery people now deliver a lot more bulky items than in the past. The extra weight involved has made postal delivery by walking or cycling more difficult. In many cases, delivery people are also servicing longer postal routes. There are also safety implications involved when postal delivery people walk or cycle when delivering mail on roads with high volumes of traffic moving at high speed, and where there are inadequate facilities for walking or cycling.
Postal delivery, by mopeds or motorcycles, overcomes many of these concerns.
This provision states that at traffic signals, riders of mobility devices and wheeled recreational devices using footpaths will have the same priorities and obligations as pedestrians.
Drivers are obliged to give way to pedestrians lawfully crossing or about to cross the road from one footpath to another, so this provision now also applies to riders of mobility devices and wheeled recreational devices.
These include motorised wheelchairs and similar devices, skateboards and foot-propelled scooters. The full definitions from the Rule are set out below.
A mobility device is a vehicle that:
A wheeled recreational device:
This Rule amendment provides an exception from arm (hand) signalling for cyclists at roundabouts where signalling is not practicable.
Roundabouts, particularly those that are multi-laned, can be difficult for cyclists to negotiate. This can be made more difficult if a cyclist attempts to comply with the signalling requirements set down in the previous rules.
The previous requirement was for a cyclist, intending to turn right, to signal as they approach a roundabout to continue to signal into the roundabout if they are turning right, and then signal left from the last exit before the one they intend to use until they leave the roundabout. This is not only physically demanding, but it also, potentially, places the cyclist at greater risk of losing control in an often-dangerous environment.
Cyclists should still try to give other road users around them clear indication of their intentions. Wherever possible, cyclists should signal their intention to turn right as they enter the roundabout (on multi-lane roundabouts they will often be crossing a lane at this stage).
This provision states that vehicles towing another vehicle without a rigid towing system will have to drive at a maximum of 50km/h.
Non-rigid towing systems (e.g. ropes, straps, chains and other flexible materials) typically have the strength required to pull a vehicle that is normally propelled by mechanical power. These systems, however, provide only limited control of the towed vehicle and do not transmit any braking forces from the towing vehicle to the towed vehicle.
The position and distance between the two vehicles are largely controlled by the driver of the towed vehicle. This driver of the towed vehicle must react to the behaviour of the driver of the towing vehicle, who can see the road ahead.
The typical time for a fully alerted person to see and react is about 0.5 seconds. This does not take into account the correctness of the response or the time it might take for the response to take effect. At 50 km/h, a vehicle travels a distance of 7 metres in 0.5 seconds, and this is more than the length of a typical flexible tow system. Note, the maximum distance permitted between a towing and towed vehicle is 4 metres.
Any speed above 50 km/h significantly increases the risk that the driver of the towed vehicle will not be able to react in time to avoid colliding with the towing vehicle. This could have uncertain and potentially serious outcomes for the drivers involved or other road users nearby.
Most drivers towing like this will operate at speeds at or below 50km/h. Although there is some risk even at this speed, 50 km/h is considered an appropriate limit to apply.
It is proposed that existing penalties for exceeding the speed limit will apply. Infringement fees for speeding increase progressively from $30 for speeds less than 10 km/h over the limit, to a maximum fine of $630 for speeds up to 50 km/h over the limit.
If the driver's speed is more than 50 km/h over the limit they could be charged with careless, dangerous or reckless driving. At more than 40 km/h above the speed limit they could incur a 28-day licence suspension which could lead to the vehicle being seized and impounded for 28 days.
In addition, for Police Officer issues notices, demerit points are imposed progressively depending on the level over the applicable speed limit, for example 10 demerit points if the limit is exceeded by not more than 10 km/h, 20 for speeds over 10 km/h above the limit but not more than 20 km/h.
The rule has been amended to ensure drivers who park their vehicles on the road margin do not damage ornamental grass plots, shrubs or flower beds laid out or planted there.
This amendment will increase the opportunities for local councils to be able to enforce the above provision.
Existing penalties for parking offences will apply. This is an infringement fee of $40.
This amendment allows small passenger service vehicles, such as taxis, to retain child safety locks provided that a sign, approved by the NZTA, is displayed at the outer door handle.
These safety locks can only be used at the request of the passenger, or a person who has responsibility for the passenger.
When Land Transport Rule: Passenger Service Vehicles 1999 (the PSV Rule) was drafted in the late 1990s, concerns were raised about passengers possibly being locked in, or feeling trapped, if a taxi was equipped with child safety locks that were activated.
However, the taxi industry maintains that there are sometimes circumstances in which child safety locks are useful, (for instance, when transporting children with behavioural problems, who might open the doors). The industry asked that they be allowed to retain child safety locks, if fitted, provided that a sign was displayed next to the door handle explaining that the locks had been fitted as original equipment.
Currently, specific exemptions have been required for each case with these cars displaying signs next to the outer door handles. The amendment Rule will remove the need to gain a specific exemption.
Certain officers, with statutory power to stop drivers, will be allowed to have blue beacons installed on vehicles they use in their official duties. This applies specifically to customs officers, fisheries officers and marine reserve officers.
The law did not allow some officials, who have statutory powers to stop drivers (such as fisheries officers), to install and operate beacons on their vehicles. This hampered the ability of these enforcement officials to signal drivers to pull over and had the potential to create safety risks.
Displaying a blue beacon will provide a clear signal that the enforcement official has the power to require a driver to stop a vehicle and should improve the safety of those involved and other road users in the area.
Drivers will be required to give way to pedestrians who are obviously waiting to cross at a pedestrian crossing.
Requiring drivers to give way to pedestrians who are obviously waiting to cross at a pedestrian crossing gives more priority to pedestrians. It will also bring New Zealand into line with other jurisdictions including Australian states, the United Kingdom and a number of other European countries.
Existing penalties for failing to give way to a pedestrian on a pedestrian crossing will apply. This is an infringement fee of $150.
This Rule amendment removes the need for small passenger service vehicles (those designed with no more than 12 seats) to stop at level crossings controlled by active warning devices (flashing lights and bells, and barrier arms) except when the warning devices are activated. It will also remove the need for large passenger service vehicles (designed to carry more than 12 people) or school buses to stop at those level crossings controlled by flashing red lights when the red lights are not flashing.
Passenger service vehicle in this case now refers to heavy vehicles used for this purpose such as buses, it does not include taxis, shuttle buses or other small passenger service vehicles. However, it does include school buses regardless of the number of seats they have.
Currently all vehicles must stop at level crossings if there is:
However, currently passenger service vehicles also have to stop at level crossings if there is:
Incidents have been reported of motorists taking unsafe evasive action to avoid a bus that has stopped, or is about to stop, in accordance with the previous requirements. Drivers were not aware that the bus had to stop by law when the red lights weren't flashing.
When this amendment Rule comes into force, drivers of large passenger service vehicles will not need to stop where red signals are installed if they are not flashing.
This Rule amendment clarifies that when towing a trailer fitted with a safety chain – the chain must be used.
In light of a number of safety-related issues that have arisen, this Rule amendment emphasises clearly the requirement to safely and securely attach trailers to the towing vehicle.
Existing penalties for towing a trailer without an adequate coupling will apply. This is an infringement fee of $150.
This Rule amendment states that cycle lights must now be visible for 100 metres rather than be required to light the road up to 100m ahead.
Cycle lights rarely provide sufficient light in a downward direction to illuminate the road ahead. However, most modern lights are able to meet the requirement for being visible from a distance of 100 metres.
The amendment Rule will clarify the minimum performance required of a cycle headlamp. It does not change the existing requirement to use a vehicle's headlamp during the hours of darkness. The penalty for breach of that requirement is an infringement fee of $150.
This Rule amendment clarifies the responsibilities of users of shared paths.
With the increasing availability of shared paths, concern was expressed that users (cyclists, pedestrians, and riders of mobility devices and wheeled recreational devices) were not sure of their obligations.
Even though some users may have 'priority', no one can unreasonably impede the movement of other users.
A shared path means an area of road, separated from a roadway, that has been defined by the road controlling authority as a path to be shared by a specified range of road users which would typically, but not exclusively, include pedestrians, mobility devices, wheeled recreational devices and cycles.
New penalties are proposed, which depend on whether the offence is one that can be committed by a pedestrian or not.
It is proposed that existing penalties that apply to pedestrians will apply to use by a person of a shared path without care/inconsiderately/in hazardous manner and failure to give priority on a shared path. These are not infringement offences, and will be subject to a maximum fine of $35 on summary conviction.
It is proposed that there will be an infringement fee of $100 for a person who rides a cycle, mobility device or wheeled recreational device on a shared path at a hazardous speed will be $100.
Road controlling authorities that limit stopping places or "stands" for a specific type of vehicle have to mark these places if practicable.
The Rule amendment will allow for situations where marking is not practicable such as on grass, metal surfaces, etc. Road controlling authorities however must indicate the restricted stopping or parking by installing appropriate traffic signs showing the limits of the restricted area.
This amendment more clearly stipulates that bus drivers in vehicles with passenger seat belts are not responsible for ensuring passengers wear them, except for the passenger in the seat next to them.
There is effectively no change to the law here but rather it is intended to state the Rule provision clearly.
To raise the public's awareness of this law change, an information campaign, including advertising, will commence before the amendment Rule is implemented. Overseas experience has shown that publicised enforcement is needed to achieve widespread long-term compliance.
A letter outlining the changes to the Rules will be sent to groups and individuals who expressed an interest in the Rule that are being amended. Stakeholder and industry groups likely to be directly affected by specific amendments will also receive information on the changes.
A copy of the final amendment Rule will be available for purchase from selected bookshops that sell legislation or direct from Legislation Direct, telephone (04) 568 0005. Final rules are available on our website(external link).
Further information about the amendment Rule may be obtained by calling the NZ Transport Agency Contact Centre on Freephone 0800 699 000.
Last updated: 21 September 2009