Too much speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads. People die every year in Aotearoa in speed-related crashes.

Remember, the faster you go, the more likely you are to be killed or seriously injured if you crash.

Safe speed guidelines

You can drive at any speed under or equal to the limit, provided:

  • your speed is safe for the traffic conditions – slow down if you’re on a busy road, or if there are pedestrians or cyclists around
  • your speed is safe for the road conditions – slow down if the road is winding, bumpy, narrow, wet or icy
  • your speed is safe for the weather conditions – slow down if it’s raining, windy or foggy
  • you can stop suddenly behind a vehicle that you’re following – if a vehicle ahead of you stops suddenly and you run into the back of it, you’ll be legally responsible
  • you can stop in half the length of clear road you can see in front of you on a road with no centre line or lanes – a narrow country road where vehicles may meet head-on
  • you can stop in the length of clear lane you can see in front of you on a road with a centre line or lanes.


Speed limit changes take effect at the sign post. Before reaching the speed limit sign, make sure you:

  • reduce your speed, if the sign indicates a lower speed

  • don’t increase your speed until you pass the sign, if the sign indicates a higher speed.

Slow drivers

If you’re travelling slower than the speed limit and there are vehicles following you, you must:

  • keep as close to the left side of the road as possible
  • pull over as soon as it’s safe to let following vehicles pass.

Don’t speed up on straight stretches of road to prevent vehicles from passing you.

A road with two lanes and four cars travelling in the northbound lane. The front blue car is keeping as close to the left side of the road as possible, allowing the red car behind to pass it.

A road with two lanes and four cars travelling in the northbound lane. The front blue car remains in the centre of the road, preventing the red car behind from passing.

Compulsory speed signs

A speed limit is the maximum legal speed you can travel on the road in good conditions. Signs showing the speed limit are displayed beside the road. These signs usually have a red border, which means the sign is compulsory.

You may drive slower than the speed limit shown, but you must be considerate towards any vehicles behind you.

You must drive slower than the limit if:

  • conditions make the speed limit shown unsafe, or
  • you’re driving a vehicle that requires you to drive at a lower speed, such as heavy vehicles.

Some examples of speed signs.

The maximum speed you

can travel is 50km/h

The maximum speed you

can travel is 70km/h

A temporary speed limit

of 30 km/h applies

Temporary speed-limit signs are usually put up when there’s work being done on or near the road.

Open road speed limits

These signs mean the maximum speed that you can travel at is 100km/h.


When following other vehicles, remember that some vehicles have lower speed limits and you may have to adjust your speed.

The vehicles listed in the table below have a lower maximum speed limit than light vehicles. 

Vehicle type Maximum open road speed limit
Heavy vehicles – vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of over 3500kg, and heavy motor vehicles towing trailers 90km/h
Light vehicles towing trailers 90km/h
School buses with a gross vehicle mass over 2000kg 80km/h
Any vehicle using a tow rope or other non-rigid connection to tow another vehicle, other than a motorcycle or ATV 50km/h
Heavy vehicles constructed without springs, or other forms of suspension, between its road wheels and its chassis 45km/h
Any vehicle towing a mechanically disabled motorcycle or ATV 30km/h

School speed limits

Active school speed limit signs are turned on before and after school, and at other times there’s activity associated with the school.

The sign on the left indicates the start of the school speed limit. If either 30 or 40 km/h is visible the red ring will flash, indicating the maximum speed past the school until the school speed limit ends.

The sign on the right will be on the side road.

Two school speed signs, both with a speed limit at the top and a yellow and black sign reading kura school at the bottom. The right sign has hours listed as well as the speed limit.

Other signs that mean you must adjust your speed

Crash, fire or other emergency sign

These signs mean that you’re coming up to a crash, breakdown, fire or other emergency. Slow down and drive at 20km/h or less until you’ve passed the emergency site.

crash sign

Emergency sign



W6 Incident Warning Fire no labels

W6 Incident Warning Breakdown no labels




If a driver exceeds a permanent posted speed limit by more than 40km/h, there's an automatic 28-day licence suspension. If a driver exceeds a temporary speed limit by more than 50km/h, there's an automatic 28-day licence suspension.

School bus signs

These signs are displayed on school buses. If a school bus has stopped, you must slow down and drive at 20km/h or less. This applies if:

  • the lights are flashing on the school bus sign, or
  • the bus has stopped to pick up or drop off school children, even if the lights aren’t flashing.

No matter which way you’re coming from, you must drive under 20km/h until you’re well past the bus.

Curve warning signs

These signs warn you that you’re coming up to a tight curve or bend in the road. The number recommends a safe and comfortable speed to drive around the curve – in this example the recommended speed in good driving conditions is 35km/h. The arrows show which direction the curve goes.



Variable speed limit signs

Variable speed signs are used to manage traffic congestion and you need to adjust your speed to the speed shown.

2 alnes of cars travelling on the motorway. A bridge goes over the motorway. 2 lighted speed signs are attached to the bridge and show the speed the vehicles are allowed to travel.

Beach and river variable speed limit signs

These speed limit signs can be used at beaches or rivers. If pedestrians are present, the speed limit is 30km/h. If there are no pedestrians, the speed limit is 60km/h.

White sign with red outline showing 60 within a red circle, then 30 within a red circle surrounded by pedestrian images