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Responsible driving means driving with the safety and convenience of all road users in mind. Following the information in this section will help you to become a safe and responsible road user.

Important driver responsibilities

Operation of a vehicle

A driver must not operate a vehicle in a condition or manner that could cause:

  • injury to any person or animal
  • annoyance to any person
  • damage to any property
  • distraction to the driver.

Unsafe vehicle or load

You must not drive an unsafe vehicle or a vehicle with an unsafe load which:

  • is not tied down
  • could fall from the vehicle
  • is dragging on the ground.

Dangerous riding

You must not ride in (or on) a vehicle in a way that might result in injury. If you are the driver you must not let your passengers ride in (or on) the vehicle in an unsafe way.

Carrying people or packages

Holding a package, person or animal in your lap or arms when driving is dangerous. Ideally, put packages in a secure place such as the boot. If this isn’t possible, put them in a place inside the vehicle where they won’t hurt anyone if the vehicle stops suddenly.

Children and pets

Children and pets can be noisy or need your help when you are driving. If you have to deal with the needs of children or pets, pull over to the side of the road and park your vehicle first.


A driver or passenger must not use any vehicle lighting equipment in a way that will dazzle, confuse or distract other road users.

Noisy and smoky vehicles

You must not drive a vehicle that:

  • makes a lot of noise, inside or outside the vehicle, due to:
    • the way in which the vehicle is being driven
    • the condition of the vehicle
    • any other means (such as a car stereo)
  • makes noise that is likely to cause  annoyance to any person
  • makes smoke for 10 seconds or more.

Make sure your vehicle’s exhaust system and engine are in good working order. This will prevent gases and excessive noise entering the car.

Making the wheels of a motor vehicle lose traction and spin on the road surface may make unnecessary noise or smoke and could be a traffic offence.

Using the horn

The horn should only be used as a reasonable traffic warning. It should not make an unnecessary or unreasonably loud, harsh or shrill noise.

Opening and closing doors

You must not open or close the door of a motor vehicle if it is likely to:

  • cause a hazard to any road user (including pedestrians, cyclists or other users of a footpath), or
  • hurt anyone.


Don’t play music in your car so loudly that you can’t hear:

  • the sounds your car is making
  • emergency sirens
  • the sound of warning bells or trains when you’re coming up to a railway level crossing.

Uphill and downhill traffic

On steep, narrow roads, it is easier for vehicles moving downhill to give way to vehicles moving uphill.

Funeral processions

If you are driving in a funeral procession, you should drive with your vehicle’s headlights on dip. That way, other drivers will know you are part of the procession.

Animals on the road

Farmers often use country roads to move stock between paddocks. If there are animals on the road:

  • slow down or pull over to the side of the road
  • don’t sound your horn or make a noise that could frighten the animals
  • follow any advice the farmer may give you.

Broken glass and other debris on the road

You are responsible for removing the following things if they fall or escape from your vehicle onto the road:

  • any slippery substance
  • any piercing or dangerous substance
  • glass
  • any other substance of any kind that, because of its size or nature, could be a danger to road users.

If the substance or glass can be removed quickly and safely, you must immediately remove it or ensure it is removed.

If the substance or glass cannot be removed quickly and safely, and there is likelihood of harm being caused to the public or any person, you must warn the public or report the occurrence immediately to the nearest police station or to a member of the police.

If you are physically incapacitated and unable to remove the substance or glass or warn the public or report the occurrence, the person removing the vehicle from the scene must do those things as required.

Firearms (Guns)

You must not carry a firearm in your vehicle unless you hold a firearm licence. You must never carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle. (This also means you must not carry ammunition in the chamber or attached magazine of the gun.)

Space-saver wheels

Some cars have a space-saver wheel as the spare wheel. Space-saver wheels are much smaller than the vehicle’s other wheels so they take up less storage room.

Space-saver wheels are for emergency use only and are not designed to be used over long distances. If you get a flat tyre and replace a wheel with a space-saver wheel, you should only use it to get directly home or to a place where the flat tyre can be repaired or replaced.

The vehicle is likely to handle differently with a space-saver wheel. Drive carefully and don’t drive faster than 80km/h. If the space-saver wheel has a sticker showing a lower speed, then that speed applies.

Space-saver wheels must have a safety label that states that the tyre is for temporary use only, what the maximum safe speed is for the tyre and what the correct pressure is. Make sure you read and follow the label.

Note: make sure the space-saver tyre is inflated to the correct pressure. This is much higher than normal tyre pressure.


While you are driving, you cannot create, send or read a text message on a cellphone or use a hand-held cellphone to make or receive a phone call. This includes accessing online services in any way.

You can, however, use your cellphone to make, receive or terminate a telephone call while driving if the phone is secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle and you manipulate the phone infrequently and briefly.

You can also use a cellphone while driving to make a 111 or *555 call if it is unsafe or impractical to pull over and stop in a safe place at the side of the road to make the call.

Driver distractions

Anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road can be a potential hazard.

You should avoid or minimise the following distractions when you are driving:

  • looking at things on the roadside
  • looking at scenery
  • talking on a hands-free cellphone
  •  talking to passengers
  • noisy children
  • pets
  • eating food
  • lighting a cigarette (including using an e-cigarette)
  • adjusting radio or climate controls
  • daydreaming
  • tiredness
  • reading maps
  • objects moving in the vehicle
  • electronic gadgets
  • reaching for items in the glovebox
  • cleaning the inside of the windscreen.

Work time and logbook requirements

If you are driving a taxi or if your vehicle weighs more than 3500kg (for example, a truck), you may be subject to restrictions on how long you can drive and the amount of rest you must have. You may also need to keep a logbook of your work time.

Official New Zealand road code for heavy vehicle drivers

Work time and logbooks (Factsheet 2)