Driving in New Zealand

By Irving E. Dayton
This item appears on page 47 of the February 2015 issue.

I read the item about the increase in traffic accidents in New Zealand involving foreign drivers (Dec. ’14, pg. 2). I would point out that the main problem for Americans driving in New Zealand is that New Zealanders drive on the left (“wrong”) side of the road.

Even if, intellectually, you know you’re supposed to be driving on the left-hand side, in an emergency your reflexes are liable to fail you and you may respond by driving on the right-hand side.

We visited New Zealand in the winter of l986-87 after six months of living and driving in Malaysia, where they also drive on the left-hand side, so we were accustomed to it.

One problem in New Zealand is that there are a lot of one-lane bridges, and coming off these bridges your instinct is to go into the right-hand lane and, thus, head-on into oncoming traffic. The same thing happens if you’re meeting oncoming traffic on a one-lane road.

Heading south from the Auckland international airport on the North Island, traffic is on a multilane divided highway, so it’s very easy to go into the right lane when the highway suddenly becomes a 2-lane road. This results in a lot of head-on crashes.

The solution is to drive slowly and concentrate intently on what you’re doing until driving on the left becomes instinctive. If you can’t do this, you should stick to public transportation or hire a driver.


Corvallis, OR