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Excessive speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads. On average, 130 people die every year in New Zealand 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

When driving a heavy vehicle you must ensure:

  • you don’t drive faster than 90km/h in a 100km/h zone (90km/h is the maximum open road speed limit for all heavy vehicles, except school buses, which are limited to 80km/h)
  • your speed is safe for the traffic conditions (for example, slow down if you are on a busy road, or if there are pedestrians or cyclists around)
  • your speed is safe for the road conditions (for example, slow down if the road is winding, bumpy, narrow, wet or icy)
  • your speed is safe for the weather conditions (for example, slow down if it is 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 will 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 (for example, 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.

Important

Remember to observe the four-second rule.

Slow drivers

If you are 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 is safe to let following vehicles pass.

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

Compulsory speed signs

A speed limit is the maximum legal speed that you can travel on the road under good conditions.

Signs showing the speed limit are displayed beside the road. These signs usually have a red border, which means that 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 are driving a vehicle that requires you to drive at a lower speed, such as heavy vehicles, which have a lower speed limit than light vehicles.
    Vehicle type and maximum speed

Some examples of speed signs are shown below.

Regulatory traffic sign with the number 50 on a circular red background

50 km/h speed sign

The maximum speed you can travel is 50km/h.

70km/h speed sign

The maximum speed you can travel is 70km/h.

Temporary speed sign

A temporary speed limit of 30km/h applies. Temporary speed-limit signs are usually put up when there is work being done on or ear the road.

Open road speed limits

The signs below mean that the maximum speed that a light vehicle can travel at is 100km/h. However, the maximum speed heavy vehicles can travel at is 90km/h (except for school buses, which are limited to 80km/h). 

100 km/hr maximum speed sign

Derestriction speed sign

Maximum speed for heavy vehicles is 90km/h – 100km/h for light vehicles.

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. This includes buses used principally to transport school children to and from a school function provided that all the passengers are seated.

90km/h
Vehicles with a gross vehicle mass* of over 2000kg that are displaying school bus signs.

80km/h
Heavy vehicles constructed without springs or other forms of suspension, between its road wheels and its chassis.

45km/h

* Gross vehicle mass (GVM) is the greater of:

  • the mass specified as the GVM of a particular vehicle by the vehicle’s manufacturer
  • the mass specified as the GVM of a particular vehicle (or a vehicle of its kind) by Waka Kotahi.

Important

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

  • do not increase your speed until you pass the sign, if the sign indicates a higher speed.

 

School zones

Some schools display signs that are turned on before and after school and other times such as lunch time. Examples are shown below.

School zone speed sign

This sign will be displayed at the start of the school zone. If the 40 is visible and the yellow lights are flashing, the maximum soeed is 40km/h until the zone ends.

School zone speed sign

This sign will be on a side road.

Important

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

If a driver exceeds a temporary speed limit by more than 50km/h, there is an automatic 28-day licence suspension. These 28-day suspensions are in addition to any other penalties imposed, eg licence disqualification and paying a fine.

Other signs that mean you must adjust your speed

Crash, fire or other emergency sign

The signs below mean that you are coming up to a crash, breakdown, fire or other emergency. Slow down and drive at 20km/h or less until you have passed the emergency site.

Emergency sign

Emergency sign

Emergency sign

Emergency sign

Emergency sign

Emergency sign

School bus signs

The signs below are displayed on school buses. If a school bus has stopped you must slow down and drive at 20km/h or less until you are well past the bus (no matter what direction you are coming from), if:

  • the bus displays a school bus sign on which the lights are flashing, or
  • the bus displays a school bus sign (with or without flashing lights) and has stopped for the purpose of picking up or dropping off school children.

School bus signs

School bus signs

Note: you may also see ‘Kura’, the Māori word for school, on a bus.

Curve warning signs

The signs below warn you that you are coming up to a tight curve or bend in the road. The number recommends a safe and comfortable speed to drive at around the curve – in this example, the recommended speed is 35km/h. The arrows show which direction the curve goes.

Note: the recommended speed is for a light vehicle and may be too fast for a heavy vehicle, particularly when laden. Drive carefully and adjust your speed if necessary. If you are carrying a load, reduce your speed on a curve to at least 10km/h below the posted speed shown. 

Vehicle stability.

Curve warning sign

Curve warning sign

Variable speed limit signs

Variable speed signs are used to manage traffic congestion. You need to adjust your speed accordingly.

variable-speed-limit-sign.jpg

Variable speed signs

Keep it 10 below

A speed study of 188 trucks showed 86 percent of drivers took corners faster than the recommended speed.

An analysis of truck crashes on the Kaikōura coast revealed 73 percent were rollovers at corners with advisory speed signs.