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Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004

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.

Rule versions

  • The ‘Current rule’ will give you the most up-to-date version of the Rule and any amendments made to it. We recommend this as your reference point if you want to read the most current information.
  • The ‘Original rule and amendments’ will give you the very first version of the rule (as it was when it was first created) as well as links to all amendments made to it over time. We recommend this page as your reference page if you want to research the history of the rule.

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

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.

Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004

Questions and answers

General questions

Why are you making these changes?
The Road User Rule reflects changes in our traffic environment over the last 30 years as well as the ever-increasing number of vehicles and variety of users on our roads. It aims at making New Zealand ’s roads safer and traffic flow more efficient by reducing uncertainty among road users.

What are the main changes under the Road User Rule?
The Road User Rule clarifies the responsibilities of all road users on New Zealand roads. The main clarifications cover required behaviour at pedestrian crossings, special vehicle lanes such as cycle, bus, transit lanes and roundabouts. There are also provisions covering use of lights, towing trailers and responsible use of mobility devices and wheeled recreational devices.

When will an updated Road Code be available?
A new version of the Road Code will be available from late February.

Will these changes make our roads safer?
Yes. The changes are designed to clarify road users’ responsibilities, thereby reducing uncertainty and allowing traffic to move as freely and safely as possible through our road network.

Who are these changes going to affect?
The changes will affect everyone using New Zealand roads – pedestrians, all classes of vehicles, and the drivers or riders of anything on wheels –from trucks to bikes, to skateboards and mobility scooters.

Why bring all these changes in at once?
It’s important that these types of clarifications or changes are implemented at the same time to avoid confusion and promote consistent behaviour.

When does this take effect?
The Road User Rule is scheduled to come into effect on 27 February 2005.

What is the legal basis for the rule?
The Land Transport Act 1998 allows for the Minister of Transport to make Land Transport Rules. Rules are a relatively new form of legislation intended to allow the drafting of specific legal requirements within a legislative framework without requiring Parliament to address every small issue. Rules are drafted in plain English and go through an extensive consultation process with interested groups and the public. This is to ensure that they are easily understood and are widely complied with. Road rules are generally written by NZ Transport Agency and, like regulations, have the power of law.

Were the public consulted on this rule? How many made submissions?
Full consultation was carried out with a range of interest groups and there were also calls for the public to make submissions. As a result, LTSA (now NZ Transport Agency) received 360 submissions on the public consultation draft.

How can I get more information and a copy of the rule?
More information is available here, or by calling NZ Transport Agency’s helpdesk on 0800 822 422. Copies of the rule can be purchased from selected Bennetts, Paper Plus and Whitcoulls retailers and other retailers who sell government legislation, or from the printers and distributors Wickliffe Limited, Freephone 0800 226 440.

What will you be doing to inform the public of their obligations under the Road User Rule?
Land Transport New Zealand is undertaking print advertising and supporting publicity to inform road users of the main changes affecting them from 17 February leading up to the rule coming into effect on 27 February 2005. Other provisions affecting specific groups such as cyclists and mobility scooter users are being communicated through targeted information and publicity, as well as the updating of existing resources.

Will there need to be changes to signs and road markings as a result of the Road User Rule?
There are some changes proposed under Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices (the Traffic Control Devices Rule), which comes into effect at the same time.

This rule sets out requirements for safe, appropriate and consistent selection and positioning of traffic signs and road markings by roading authorities (local councils and Transit New Zealand ) nationwide. It aims to ensure traffic control devices are consistent throughout New Zealand , so that road users know what to do in areas which aren’t familiar to them. Many areas already conform to the markings and signage proposed under the rule.

Pedestrian (zebra) and school (kea) crossing points

What does the rule say motorists have to do at pedestrian (zebra) crossings?
Under the Road User Rule, motorists must now give way to pedestrians on both sides of a pedestrian crossing, unless that crossing is divided by a raised traffic island.

What does the rule say pedestrians must do at pedestrian crossings?
The rule says that pedestrians must not step out onto a crossing unless approaching vehicles are far enough away to be able to stop safely.

What’s the change?
Previously motorists had to give way to pedestrians on both sides of a crossing if the crossing was not divided by a centre-line marking. However, if a crossing was divided by a centre-line marking, motorists only had to give way to pedestrians on their side of the crossing.

Why has this change been made?
About 10 percent of the pedestrians killed or injured in crashes over the last five years have been hit by a vehicle on or near a pedestrian crossing. Feedback from the Police and councils indicates drivers and pedestrians are often unable to see where the centre-line is, particularly when it’s dark or raining. This makes it more difficult to judge when a pedestrian is on the driver’s side of the road.

How do I know whether a crossing is divided by a raised traffic island?
A raised traffic island is required by the Traffic Control Devices Rule to have reflectorised traffic signs sufficient to guide drivers around the traffic island.

There are no mandatory specifications for a raised traffic island but there are standard traffic engineering guidelines.

Can a driver proceed across a pedestrian crossing once the pedestrian has passed in front of their vehicle - or do they have to wait until the pedestrian is completely off the crossing?
Once the driver has given way to a pedestrian, (and there is no other pedestrian on the crossing to whom the driver must give way), the driver may proceed. In most circumstances the driver does not need to wait until the pedestrian is completely off the pedestrian crossing as they have already ‘given way’ to them.

How do we go about getting a traffic island installed on our local crossing?
If you believe that a pedestrian crossing in your area should be divided by a traffic island or pedestrian refuge, you will need to discuss this with your local council.

What about very wide crossings – how can motorists see across to the other side?
Under the Traffic Control Devices Rule, any pedestrian crossing of more than 15 metres is required to have traffic signals installed, or to be separated into two crossings by a raised traffic island.

What if a pedestrian runs out in front of me?
The rule states that pedestrians should not step out onto a crossing unless approaching vehicles are far enough away to be able to stop safely. However, you need to slow down when approaching a pedestrian crossing and be prepared to stop suddenly for pedestrians (particularly children) who might dart out onto the crossing.

Doesn’t this add to traffic congestion by slowing down motorists needlessly?
The safety of other road users is worth the slight delay caused by stopping for a pedestrian who is not on your side of the road. At roads where congestion is identified as an issue, roading authorities may consider installing raised traffic islands or traffic signals to prevent unnecessary delays.

What about pedestrian crossings controlled by traffic lights? Do motorists need to give way to pedestrians if they’re crossing against the lights, eg when the ‘green man’ isn’t showing? What if a pedestrian is crossing near the crossing but not on it?
Legally, a pedestrian must obey pedestrian signals at traffic lights. However, you should always be prepared to stop for pedestrians (particularly children) who might dart out onto the crossing. Likewise, you should look out for pedestrians who might cross near, but not on, the crossing itself.

What’s the difference between a pedestrian crossing and a courtesy crossing?
A courtesy crossing is usually made of bricks and paving and is designed to provide a safe place for motorists to stop to let pedestrians across the road safely. However, a courtesy crossing is not an official pedestrian crossing and pedestrians should take care when using one, as motorists are not legally obliged to stop.

Can I ride a bike across a pedestrian crossing?
No, if you’re riding a bike, you are subject to the rules applying to vehicles, not pedestrians. If you wish to cross on a pedestrian crossing you must dismount and wheel your bike across the crossing before continuing your ride.

What does the Road User Rule say about passing vehicles which have stopped at pedestrian (zebra) crossings and school (kea) crossing points?
Motorists must not pass vehicles that have stopped at pedestrian crossings or school crossing points.

Vehicles blocking pedestrian crossings

What does the Road User Rule say about blocking pedestrian crossings?
The rule says a driver cannot enter a pedestrian crossing area if the way ahead is blocked by stationary traffic. In other words, if there isn’t enough room for your car to get clear of a pedestrian crossing on the other side of an intersection, you should wait until there is room. Otherwise, you will block the pedestrian crossing and endanger pedestrians trying to cross the road.

How do I report a car that is blocking a pedestrian crossing?
You can report anyone breaking traffic laws to the Police either by dialling *555 on your mobile phone or contacting your local police station directly.

Other pedestrian issues

In a shared zone (eg an area with no footpath which is shared by cars and pedestrians), who gives way? What about bikes and pedestrians?
The rule says a driver of a vehicle must give way to a pedestrian within a shared zone. Vehicles include cyclists, so cyclists must also give way to pedestrians in a shared zone.

What are pedestrians’ responsibilities in shared zones?
The rule says a pedestrian in a shared zone must not ‘unduly impede’ the passage of any vehicle in a shared zone. This means that they should not deliberately block the path of an approaching vehicle.

Using special vehicle lanes

What’s the definition of a special vehicle lane and what does it include?
A special vehicle lane is any lane marked on the roadway for exclusive use by cyclists or specific classes of vehicle, eg bus and transit lanes.

What does the Road User Rule say about using special vehicle lanes?
The rule says that you must not drive in a special vehicle lane unless you are operating a vehicle of a type that is permitted to use that lane.

If you’re not driving a vehicle that is entitled to use a special vehicle lane, the only circumstances in which you may legally be able to use that lane are:

  1. if your vehicle is too big or the load you’re carrying is too large to be contained within one lane
  2. if the lane you’re in is obstructed
  3. if you need to cross the lane in order to turn or park clear of the lane.

If any of these reasons apply, the rule says you must use the lane safely, for as short a time as you can, giving-way to, and not impeding, vehicles that are entitled to use that lane. In addition, you must not stop, stand, or park your vehicle in any special vehicle lane, unless your vehicle is entitled to use that lane and stopping is permitted by signs or markings.

What’s changed?
Previously road users’ responsibilities relating to cycle, bus, and transit lanes were covered by local council bylaws. The Road User Rule makes these requirements consistent nationally.

Why has this been done?
By setting a national standard for special vehicle lanes there can be greater consistency in driver behaviour throughout New Zealand .

Can cars stop or park in a bus or cycle lane? What if they have their hazard lights on?
No. The law says that you must not park in a bus or cycle lane – even temporarily.

How will drivers know which lanes are for what purpose and when they can be used?
The purpose of any special vehicle lane should be indicated by signs and/or markings – these will eventually become consistent under the Traffic Control Devices Rule.

Cycle lanes

Do I have to cycle in a cycle lane or track if one’s available?
No, it is not compulsory for a cyclist to use a cycle lane or track if one is available.

Does this mean more cycle lanes will be introduced around New Zealand?
Yes. As part of their ongoing commitment to encouraging sustainable transport modes, central and local government will be looking to increase cycling facilities in future.

If cyclists are travelling in a large group, can they ride outside a cycle lane on the road?
Yes, but they must not ride more than two abreast and they must ride single file if passing another vehicle (including another cycle), or if riding two abreast would disrupt traffic.

Can I cross a cycle lane to park or to turn, and do I have to give way to cyclists when doing so?
Yes, you can cross a cycle lane in order to park your vehicle or when turning – and yes, you do have to give way to any cyclists when doing so.

Can I park in a cycle lane temporarily to pick up and set down passengers?
No, this is not permitted.

Can I move into a cycle lane to allow faster moving traffic to overtake? What about to avoid an obstacle?
You may not move into a cycle lane to allow faster moving traffic to overtake. However, you may move into a cycle lane to avoid an obstacle if you can do so safely and you are not endangering any cyclists.

Are there rules to stop cyclists from riding dangerously?
Cyclists have to obey the same rules motorists do and are subject to the same enforcement.

Can motorcycles use cycle lanes?
No, motorcycles are not allowed to be ridden in cycle lanes.

Is there a minimum legal standard for cycle lane width?
No. However NZ Transport Agency has developed design guidelines for cycling facilities that are available to local councils and these cover recommended widths for cycle lanes.

Can I stop in a cycle lane to load or unload my commercial vehicle?
No, but you can cross a cycle lane to reach a loading zone.

Why can’t the law just specify that cars should give way to cycles in cycle lanes, rather than restrict their use?
It’s an issue of safety – cyclists are at much less risk and can be seen more easily if they are travelling in a separate lane.

Is there any restriction on how many cyclists can ride abreast in a cycle lane?
Yes, cyclists must not ride more than two abreast.

Bus lanes

Can I cycle in a bus lane?
Yes, you can, unless specifically excluded by signs.

Who has priority – cyclists or buses?
A bus lane is treated as a shared facility, which means no-one has priority – but the law says that neither should impede the other unnecessarily.

Doesn’t letting cyclists use bus lanes endanger them even further?
No, because they are separated from the majority of the traffic and, therefore, are more visible to other motorists.

If buses have to stop in a bus lane to pick up or let off passengers, won’t they be obstructing cyclists when they do so?
Yes. In this case, cyclists can decide whether they want to wait behind the bus, or carefully pass the bus on the right-hand side.

Can motorcycles use bus lanes?
Yes, unless specifically excluded by signs.

How do I know it’s a bus lane?
The words BUS LANE will be marked on the road, indicating the lane is for this purpose.

Can taxis use bus lanes?
No, not unless the local council has specifically created a lane for use by buses and taxis.

Can I use a bus lane on the weekend, when there’s hardly any buses about?
Generally, no. However, in some cases councils may designate lanes as bus lanes during specific time periods (eg peak hours) and other vehicles may be able to use the lane outside these hours. If this is the case, signs will indicate the time period in which the lane operates as a bus lane.

Transit lanes

What is a transit lane?
A transit lane is a lane reserved for the use of passenger service vehicles, motor vehicles carrying a minimum number of passengers, cyclists and motorcyclists (unless specifically excluded by a sign at the start of that lane). This usually operates at peak periods only.

How many people do I have to have in my vehicle before I can use a transit lane reserved for high occupancy vehicles?
A transit lane reserved for high occupancy vehicles will have signs posted indicating the minimum number of people required to be in a vehicle, for the driver to use that lane eg T2 – a minimum of two people, T3 – a minimum of three people.

Can trucks and commercial vehicles use transit lanes? If not, why not?
Not unless they have the number of passengers indicated, because these lanes are designed to encourage greater occupancy of vehicles and are designated for the transport of passengers only.

Emergency stopping lanes

What are motorists’ obligations regarding emergency stopping lanes on motorways? What constitutes an emergency?
You must not drive in an emergency stopping lane unless you need to do so to avoid a collision, or to stop in an emergency, or your vehicle is disabled.

You must use common sense to judge what a genuine emergency is, remembering that you can be prosecuted for stopping or parking on a motorway, if the Police spot you using an emergency stopping lane and believe your circumstances do not warrant doing so. For example, you could be fined for pulling over into an emergency stopping lane to use your cellphone.

Slow-vehicle bays

What does the rule say about using slow-vehicle bays?
You should use a slow-vehicle bay if you’re travelling at a speed that is holding up traffic travelling at normal speed behind you.

Are trucks or caravans legally obliged to use a slow-vehicle bay?
Yes, if they are likely to impede the normal flow of traffic.

So what’s new about this?
The previous regulations covered slow vehicles impeding traffic in passing lanes but not slow-vehicle bays.

Keeping left

What does the Road User Rule say about keeping left?
In general, you should keep left unless turning right, passing or the lane is blocked.

So what’s changed?
The emphasis is now on keeping left unless you have a good reason, eg you are turning right, passing another or the left lane is blocked. Previously, the regulations focused on not impeding other road users.

Given they’re restricted to 90 km/h, why haven’t we made trucks and heavy vehicles legally obliged to used the left-hand lane at all times?
The same rules apply to trucks and heavy vehicles as apply to any other vehicle – they should keep left unless turning right, passing or the lane is blocked.


What exactly does the rule require me to do at roundabouts?
You must signal where you intend to exit the roundabout upon your approach and give way to all traffic that will cross your path from your right as you enter the roundabout.

When leaving the roundabout, you should signal left as you pass the exit before the one you intend taking.

At multi-lane roundabouts:

  1. If you are going more than halfway around, you must approach in the right-hand lane, or any other lane marked for that purpose (remembering to signal a right turn when entering the roundabout).
  2. If you’re going straight ahead at the roundabout (eg halfway around), you need to use any lane that is marked for that purpose.
  3. If you’re going less than halfway around, you must use the left-hand lane, or any other lane marked for that purpose (remembering to signal a left turn before entering).

What’s changed?
Although this has been recommended behaviour at roundabouts for some time (as reflected by advice in the Road Code), until now it hasn’t been law. This means that from 27 February 2005 when the rule comes into effect, you can be fined for not following signalling requirements at roundabouts and for not using the correct lane at multi-lane roundabouts.

How will I know what lane to get into if I’m driving in an unfamiliar city?
The rules to follow at multi-lane roundabouts will be consistent throughout the country. Under the Traffic Control Devices Rule, road controlling authorities will be working to achieve consistency with markings at roundabouts throughout the country to reduce confusion for road users.

Why has this been done now?
There are far more roundabouts now than there were when the first rules relating to roundabouts were made decades ago. There are currently about 270 people killed and injured each year in crashes at roundabouts, indicating a need to encourage more consistent and predictable driver behaviour at roundabouts.

Why do I have to signal when entering and exiting a roundabout?
By signalling your intentions, other roundabout users can predict your movements more accurately, improving traffic flow and reducing hesitation – and the risk of a crash.

What happens in a smaller roundabout when there’s not enough time to signal your exit?
The rule states ‘if practicable’ on exit. Signalling will not, therefore, be required on very small roundabouts where it is not practicable to do so.

People don’t understand what to do at roundabouts at the moment anyway– what is NZ Transport Agency doing about it?
Before the rule comes into effect, the LTSA will be undertaking a nationwide print advertising campaign to inform road users about what they are required to do at roundabouts.

What are the changes to roundabouts proposed under the Traffic Control Devices Rule?
All road controlling authorities will be required under the rule to mark lanes to direct the flow of traffic on roundabouts. This will require traffic entering and leaving any multi-laned roundabout to follow a clearly marked path, which will reduce the likelihood of a vehicle crossing another’s path and causing a crash. One method of road marking that meets this new criterion is Alberta marking (see diagram below).

Alberta roundabout

Won’t the new provision require substantial re-engineering of roundabouts?
No. Submissions from councils indicate there are few cases where substantial re-engineering will be required to comply with the new format.

If this provision requires new signs and road markings, who will pay the extra cost?
Many roundabouts already conform to the markings proposed nationally. New roundabout installations will automatically be built in the new format, while existing installations will be upgraded as part of councils’ normal maintenance schedules. Therefore, in most, if not all cases, there should be no additional cost to ratepayers in adopting the new roundabout format.

Will there be signs to indicate which lane to get into? Often lane markings are obscured by traffic.
Visibility of road markings and signs are issues for local councils to consider in relation to specific sites. NZ Transport Agency is developing guidelines to assist with this and can provide individual advice to councils as necessary.

Will the roundabout markings all be changed before the rule comes into effect?
Long term, the intention is to achieve consistent signs and markings at roundabouts across New Zealand . However, NZ Transport Agency considers there is minimal safety risk in phasing this in gradually over the next few years and, therefore, requiring councils to comply immediately would impose unnecessary cost on ratepayers.

What do I do when a roundabout coincides with a level crossing?
Follow the normal roundabout rules and those that apply at level crossings.

Do I have to signal on entering if I am going straight ahead?
No, but , you should signal left as you pass the exit before the one you intend taking.

What exactly is the definition of ‘halfway’?
The rule states that halfway is defined as ‘straight ahead, or substantially straight ahead’ from where you enter the roundabout.

Isn’t this going to slow down traffic through roundabouts and add to the congestion?
On the contrary, it will increase the efficiency of traffic flow, as drivers can better understand other drivers’ intentions – thus reducing hesitancy and the need for sudden braking.

Wouldn’t it be easier to install traffic lights?
Both roundabouts and traffic signals have their merits in terms of traffic management. Among other factors, it depends upon the volume of traffic at a particular intersection as to which traffic management system is more efficient.

Will it matter if I comply early with this rule?
No. This provision is based on best practice behaviour as recommended in the Road Code for some time.

What about those people who have indicators that switch off automatically – isn’t it going to be difficult for them to signal as required?
The rule states ‘if practicable’ on exit. Signalling will not, therefore, be required where it is mechanically impossible.

Noise in and on vehicles

What does the Road User Rule say about vehicle noise?
Under the rule, it’s an offence to operate equipment in or on a vehicle in such a way that creates excessive noise. This covers noisy stereos and external speakers as well as revving engines noisily.

Why has this been done?
Previous regulations covered operating a vehicle that creates excessive noise, but didn’t cover other means of creating noise in or on the vehicle, such as stereos or loudspeakers.

Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Equipment 2004 (the Vehicle Equipment Rule) which was signed in July 2004 and comes into effect on February 27 2005 , will prohibit exhaust systems being modified so that they are excessively noisy. The Road User Rule covers how vehicles are used, not what equipment they’re allowed to have.


Why has the speed limit for driving past a stationary school bus not been raised?
20 km/h was considered to be an appropriate speed for vehicles passing school buses stopped to let children on or off. School children may run out onto the road after leaving a school bus – travelling at 20 km/h minimises the risk of hitting a child and killing or seriously injuring them.

What is being done to address the issue of school bus safety?
NZ Transport Agency has a number of initiatives aimed at improving school bus safety. These include the following as set out below.

  • Examining relevant school bus safety standards, such as passenger service vehicle requirements, from time to time.
  • Running an education and advertising campaign to raise awareness of the 20 km/h speed limit among motorists.
  • Assisting communities with school bus safety initiatives.
  • Developing school bus stop guidelines.
  • Providing educational resources on school bus safety (eg pamphlets, posters, Ata Haere, RoadSense (school-based road safety campaign).
  • Co-ordinating the School Bus Safety Overview Group, an industry and government group which looks at ways to enhance existing initiatives and develop new initiatives to further improve school bus safety.

Will school buses have a sign on the back reminding people of the 20 km/h limit?
No. Some communities do have signs on the back of their school buses to remind motorists to slow down to 20 km/h. There are no plans to make this mandatory for all school buses. However all school buses are marked clearly on the front and back using the regulation yellow SCHOOL or SCHOOL BUS sign.

Why aren’t school bus drivers made legally responsible for ensuring children safely cross the road after leaving the bus?
If bus drivers were to alight from the bus then some children may be left alone in the vehicle. Bus drivers are discouraged from leaving children on their own in school buses because they could play with the controls (eg letting off the handbrake could be very dangerous). Instead of placing the responsibility upon the bus drivers, education material distributed by NZ Transport Agency encourages parents and caregivers to wait on the same side of the road as the school bus stop and to regularly go through the correct road skills with their children.

Why have we raised the speed limit for trucks to 90 km/h, but not school buses?
It was considered the limit for school buses should remain at 80 km/h to ensure student safety, particularly given children may be standing on school buses.

What does the Rule say about bus drivers driving with their doors open?
Under previous regulations it was illegal for the door to be open when the bus moved off or within 50 m of the stopping place. When the Road User Rule comes into force in February 2005, the law will prevent buses with passengers on board from having their doors open at any time when the bus is moving.

If there are safety belts on a bus, does the driver have to make passengers use them?
No. Passengers are responsible for their own safety belt use.

What about young school children?
The bus driver’s primary focus should be on driving the bus safely, not worrying about whether passengers are using safety belts. Where there is a supervisor or teacher accompanying school children under the age of 15, they should take responsibility for ensuring schoolchildren use safety belts where provided.

Could passengers be fined for not wearing safety belts if they’re provided?
Yes. Passengers 15 years and over could be fined by the Police if safety belts are provided and not used.

Use of lights

What does the rule say about safe use of lights?
The rule says that you must not use vehicle lights in a way that dazzles, confuses, distracts or in any way endangers other road users.

Does this mean I shouldn’t have my lights on in the middle of the day, even when it’s raining?
No, you can have your lights on whenever you like as long as you use them in a way that doesn’t dazzle and distract other road users. The law says that if conditions are such that you can’t see a vehicle or person 100 metres in front of you, you must have your lights on.

Does this apply to cyclists as well?
Yes. In fact it’s even more important for cyclists because appropriate lighting use increases cyclists’ visibility significantly. One of the leading causes of cyclist casualty crashes is due to other road users not seeing the cyclist.

Can I drive with my lights on all the time?
Yes, you can have your lights on whenever you like as long as you use them in a way that doesn’t dazzle and distract other road users.

When can I use my hazard lamps?
Non-commercial vehicles should use hazard lamps only for safety purposes to indicate a temporary hazard to traffic, for example, if your vehicle has broken-down and you are awaiting assistance, or on a vehicle that’s being towed. Goods vehicles may use hazard lamps when double-parked for trade purposes.

What exactly are fog lamps and when can I use them?
Fog lamps are additional lamps that give out a short, wide beam of light which shines underneath the fog, lighting up the foreground and helping the driver see the sides of the road better.

Fog lamps should only be used when your visibility is severely reduced – eg by snow or thick fog. You must not use fog lamps under clear atmospheric conditions as you could dazzle other road users.

How does this relate to the Vehicle Lighting Rule?
The vehicle lighting rule covers what lighting equipment can be fitted and how it should fitted – the Road User Rule covers when and how the lighting should be used.

When can I use a work lamp on my vehicle?
Only to illuminate a work scene and you must be stationary or travelling slowly.

Who is legally allowed to use a beacon and under what circumstances?
Beacons may be used by the following vehicles under the following circumstances:

  • a blue beacon or a red beacon used by a police vehicle
  • a red beacon on a emergency vehicle being used in an emergency
  • a green beacon fitted to a vehicle operated by a registered medical practitioner or registered nurse or registered midwife while on urgent medical service
  • a white forward-facing beacon fitted to an emergency vehicle being operated in an emergency and that is also operating a red beacon or a blue beacon or both a red beacon and a blue beacon
  • an amber beacon or a purple beacon fitted to a vehicle operated in compliance with Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002 (the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule);
  • an amber beacon fitted to a vehicle operated in accordance with a traffic management plan approved by a road controlling authority
  • an amber beacon fitted to a vehicle for use when the vehicle is stationary or being driven slowly and where the operation of the beacon is necessary to warn other road users of a hazard due to the presence of the vehicle or of persons carrying out a lawful activity on the road on the road in the vicinity of the vehicle.

What’s an emergency vehicle?
A vehicle used for attendance at emergencies and operated by emergency services, eg police car, ambulance, fire engine, civil defence or defence force emergency vehicle.

What does the rule say about making way for vehicles with flashing beacons or using a siren?
The rule says you must make way for emergency vehicles displaying flashing lights or using a siren, or for a vehicle that is being escorted by an enforcement officer. These might include police cars, ambulances, fire engines, civil defence or defence force emergency vehicles, doctors or midwives. You must also make way for pilot vehicles accompanying over dimension vehicles.

Carrying loads and towing

Why is the speed limit for light vehicles towing trailers being increased from 80km/h to 90km/h from 27 February 2005?
NZ Transport Agency’s crash statistics show no evidence of a widespread problem with trailer stability. The only circumstances under which trailers would have significant stability problems travelling at 90 km/h is when the load weighs more than 75% of the weight of the towing vehicle.

The government considers that light vehicles towing trailers that are required to go slower than the normal traffic flow make it more likely that other vehicles will attempt to overtake dangerously. This, combined with improvements in traffic flow that an increased speed limit would bring, in their view, outweighs the safety risks associated with light vehicles towing trailers being allowed to go faster.

What is preventing people from towing weights that would make them unstable at 90 km/h?
NZ Transport Agency sets out clear guidelines for towing and loading light trailers. In addition, if a driver is carrying a load that is too heavy for their vehicle and this leads to a crash, they can be charged with careless or inconsiderate driving. A person convicted of careless or inconsideratedriving is liable for a fine of up to $3,000 and can be disqualified from driving. If the careless or inconsiderate driving leads to a crash in which another person is killed or injured, the driver can be imprisoned for up to three months or fined up to $4,500 and must be disqualified for at least six months.

What exactly is meant by a ‘light vehicle’ and by a ‘trailer’?
A light vehicle is defined as having a gross vehicle mass of 3,500 kg or less. A trailer can include a boat, horsefloat, caravan or any type of trailer used to move goods.

How will the Police be enforcing the new limit?
The Police will enforce the new limit with a reduced discretionary tolerance of five km/h rather than 10 km/h. This means that anyone driving a vehicle towing a trailer caught travelling at a speed in excess of five km/h over any applicable speed limit (eg 96 km/h on the open road or 56 km/h in a 50 km/h zone) can expect a fine.

How are drivers of light vehicles towing trailers going to be informed of the change?
NZ Transport Agency and NZ Police have developed a flyer Keep your Trailer in Tow, which contains information on the change and advice on towing safely. This is being distributed through service stations and trailer hire outlets throughout the country as well as boating and caravan associations and by NZ Police on road.

What obligations do motorists have when towing trailers?
A trailer must be securely fixed using an adequate tow coupling to the back of a vehicle before it can be legally towed on. On trailers that have brakes the driver must ensure that the brake connection between vehicles is such that the brakes of towing and towed vehicles operate as intended.

Can a passenger ride in a light trailer or boat while it’s being towed?
This is not recommended. Riding in or on a vehicle, or an object which is being transported on a vehicle, in a manner or position that may cause injury is prohibited e.g. no-one may sit on a load while it is being towed.

Am I allowed to ride in a caravan while it’s being towed?
No, this is specifically prohibited under the Road User Rule.

What are motorist’s obligations under the Road User Rule with regards to unsafe vehicles or loads?
The rule says that you must not drive a vehicle in an unsafe condition or in a way that is likely to injure any person or animal, annoy any person, or damage any property or that could distract you or any other driver. If you’re carrying a load, you need to ensure it is safely loaded, secured and covered and is not likely to risk injuring, annoying, damaging or distracting other road users or property.

How has this changed?
There is now a new clause which covers ‘loads that are a distraction to the driver’ – for example, animals.

What does the rule say about towing motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles?
A driver must not tow a motorcycle or an all-terrain vehicle (such as a quad bike) unless it is mechanically disabled.

What’s an outrigger and what does the rule say about driving a vehicle fitted with one?
An outrigger is a projecting frame extending laterally beyond the main structure of a vehicle that supports and stabilises an extending part, eg a crane. The rule says that you must not drive a vehicle fitted with an outrigger on a road unless the outrigger is fully retracted and locked.

Why has this provision been included?
A number of crashes have been caused by drivers not securing outrigger equipment properly. This provision aims to address the issue.

What does the rule say about operating vehicles with dual steering?
You must not drive in the left-hand driving position unless you are using it for its intended purpose, eg teaching someone to drive, or unless you are testing the vehicle.

Animals on roads

What are my obligations when leading an animal on the road?
The rule states that you must ‘exercise due care’ – which basically means you must take all reasonable steps to avoid causing harm to other road users by not letting an animal run out onto the road causing a traffic hazard.

What sort of animals does this apply to?
Any animal that can be led, eg a horse, dog, goat.

What about the driver’s obligation to other road users leading animals?
The rule says you must take care to avoid causing harm to other road users. This means, for example, you should slow down and not sound your horn if an animal is on the road and could be affected by the noise.

What about untethered animals – eg stock?
Once again, the rule says you should take care to avoid harming other road users.

What’s changed?
While current regulations impose a general duty of care on all road users, and contain requirements for riders of animals, there is no mention of specific obligations on the part of those leading an animal on the road, or on those approaching animals on the road. The Traffic Regulations currently have specific requirements (which are carried over into the rule) about riders of animals.


Weekend parking

What effect does the Road User Rule have on weekend parking?
Within a normal parking zone (indicated by a sign featuring a white P on a blue background), weekday-parking conditions will also apply at weekends, but not public holidays. Previously, parking conditions that applied on weekdays did not apply on weekends and public holidays, unless otherwise stated.

Don’t local councils decide where you can park at the weekend?
Yes, while the government sets basic parking legislation, which applies nationally, local councils are responsible for developing a framework for determining what restrictions apply in which areas and when as part of their management of traffic.

Why has this been changed?
Over the last decade, normal hours of trading for retail outlets have increased significantly, resulting in growing demand for weekend parking. Under current legislation, normal parking restrictions do not apply on weekends unless otherwise stated – as they are regarded as public holidays. This has meant local councils have had to use more signs if they wish to tighten these restrictions (for example, in order to prevent weekend traffic congestion and encourage public transport use).

Loading zone parking

What does the rule say about loading zones?
Under current law, you may park on a loading zone if you are unloading or loading goods or passengers, if you comply with any restrictions relating to vehicle type (eg goods vehicles only) and the time that you are permitted to park on the loading zone.

How long are permitted vehicles allowed to park on a loading zone?
You may park on a loading zone for the time specified on the loading zone sign if your vehicle is not left unattended for more than five minutes (or longer period if the sign specifies this). The rule allows for some loading zones to be further restricted so that you would not be able to leave your vehicle unattended at any time – for example, at airport drop-off points.

So, what’s changed?
The rule allows restrictions on loading zones to be made to prevent people from leaving their cars unattended at busy areas such as airport pick up points. This also addresses the security risks associated with unattended vehicles being left in these types of areas.

What does the rule say about leaving the door of a vehicle open in a way that causes a hazard to other road users?
It is illegal to cause a hazard by opening or closing the door of your motor vehicle, or by leaving the door open. This applies whether you’re a driver or a passenger and to both the drivers’ and passengers’ sides – eg leaving a door open which blocks the pavement.

Parking on median strips and traffic islands

Can I park on a median strip or a traffic island?
No. You may not park on a flush median (a median strip which is flush with the road) or traffic island under any circumstances.

What about if I leave my hazard lights on and I’m only gone for five minutes?

What about if I remain in the vehicle?
No. You may not park on a median strip or traffic island under any circumstances.

Parking on footpaths

Who can park on footpaths?
You may park a cycle, mobility device and wheeled recreational device on a footpath unless there is a sign that says otherwise – however, you must ensure that it is not in the way of other users of the footpath.

Can cars park on footpaths?
No, cars and other motor vehicles are not permitted to park on footpaths.

Parking vehicles off-roadway

Can I park on grass if it’s public property and there is no sign preventing me from doing so?
In general, it is not permitted to park on cultivated grass areas (grass or gardens that have been tended and cared for). Your local council should be able to advise you if you’re unsure whether you can park on a particular site.

Parking on pedestrian crossings

Can I park on a pedestrian crossing if I remain in the vehicle?
No, parking on a pedestrian crossing is illegal under any circumstances, as you will create a hazard for pedestrians.

Following other vehicles

What are my obligations when following another vehicle?
The Road User Rule says you must maintain a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front of you (see below) and if going more than 50 km/h, you must leave sufficient room in front for a vehicle passing you to be able to safely move into the gap.

The legal minimum following distances set out in the Road User Rule are:

  • 16 m, if travelling at a speed of 40–49 km/h
  • 20 m, if travelling at a speed of 50–59 km/h
  • 24 m, if travelling at a speed of 60–69 km/h
  • 28 m, if travelling at a speed of 70–79 km/h
  • 32 m, if travelling at a speed of 80 km/h or more.

However, in practice, it is difficult to gauge following distances in metres. Given this, it is recommended that you use the ‘two-second’ rule (ie your vehicle should not pass a particular point any sooner than two seconds after the vehicle in front of you, measured by counting ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two’).

What should my following distance be if I’m travelling between 70–80 kilometres an hour? Has this changed from previously?

If you’re travelling at 80 km/h, you are legally required to leave a distance of at least 32 metres between you and the car in front – previously the legal minimum following distance under law was 28 metres for vehicles travelling at 70 km/h or more.

What are my responsibilities when following vehicles through a level crossing?
You must not follow a vehicle ahead of you across a level crossing if there is insufficient space for you behind that vehicle on the other side of the crossing.

Miscellaneous provisions

What do I have to do at a handheld stop sign?
A driver approaching a hand-held stop sign must stop before reaching the sign and must not proceed until the person holding the sign removes it or displays a ‘go’ or ‘slow’ sign towards the driver.

So what’s changed?
Although this was common practice (and common sense) it wasn’t law.

Why has this been done?
People would sometimes ignore handheld stop signs and endanger other road users. This provision gives legal backup to handheld stop signs.

What do I do at an intersection when there’s a flashing yellow traffic signal?
A flashing yellow traffic signal means that the traffic signals are not working. In this situation you must obey normal give-way rules that apply at uncontrolled intersections.

What does the Road User Rule say vehicles must do when entering or exiting a driveway?
Drivers entering or exiting a driveway have to give way to road users on the footpath.

Passenger obligations

Helmets for passengers

Why should people in motorcycle sidecars and those on a bicycle trailer have to wear a helmet?
Passengers riding in sidecars or bicycle trailers have exactly the same risk of head injuries as the driver or rider of the vehicle. Therefore, they need to wear a helmet to protect themselves in the event of a crash.

Does this apply to tourist ‘rickshaws’ and novelty rides?
No, this law only applies to motorcycle and bicycle users – those riding in tourist rickshaws or novelty rides (with more than two wheels) and monocycles are not required to wear a helmet under law.

Passengers riding dangerously

What does the Rule say about passengers riding dangerously?
Riding in or on a vehicle, or an object which is being transported on a vehicle, in a manner or position that may cause injury is prohibited e.g. no-one may sit on a load while it is being towed.

Am I allowed to ride in a caravan while it’s being towed?
No, this is specifically prohibited under the Road User Rule.

What about a boat?
Not recommended. Passengers must not be carried in or on a boat in a way that may cause injury.

Passengers and safety belts

When is it the driver’s responsibility to ensure passengers are wearing their safety belts – and when is it the passengers’?
if you are under 15 and in a vehicle other than passenger service vehicle (eg bus or taxi) it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure you are wearing a safety belt if one is available. If you are 15 or over it is yours.

If there are safety belts available on a bus or mini-van, do I have to use them?
Whatever the type of vehicle, if there are safety belts available, you must use them unless you are specifically exempted under law.

Vintage vehicles

What does the Road User Rule say about emission requirements for vintage vehicles?
The Road User Rule confirms that vehicles must not emit smoke or vapour for 10 seconds or more – but now exempts vehicles from this requirement where the engine is original equipment for the vehicle and its design prevents the vehicle from complying without disproportionate effort and expense. However, the driver has to produce documentation proving this.

All-terrain vehicles

How does the rule affect the use of quad bikes?
Under the rule, helmets must be worn if a quad bike is ridden on a public road – however, farmers moving from one area of their property to another are exempted from this rule.

Use of mobility devices

What’s a mobility device?
A mobility device is defined as a device that is designed specifically for people who need assistance to be mobile – this includes a motorised wheelchair or mobility scooter.

What do mobility device users have to do under the new rule?
In the same way as pedestrians, mobility device users must use the footpath where one is readily accessible. They must otherwise stay as close as possible to the edge of the road. They must drive in a careful and considerate manner and at a speed that doesn’t cause a hazard to other users of the footpath.

What’s changed?
The term ‘mobility device’ is new. Under existing regulations, a mobility scooter would be regarded as an ‘invalid carriage’. An invalid carriage is defined as a device used for a person suffering from a ‘physical defect or disability’ and cannot be used on the footpath if ‘it has a width greater than 90 cm and is capable of a speed greater than 6 km/h’. However, the regulations do not make it clear that an invalid carriage shouldn’t be used on the road. In addition, width and speed restrictions for this type of device are difficult to enforce, and it is considered that the new legal requirements will be more appropriate.

What does this mean for pedestrians using the same footpath?
The rule says that pedestrians must not block the way of mobility device users unnecessarily.

How will people who use these devices be made aware of their responsibilities?
NZ Transport Agency is producing a new brochure ”Keeping Mobile” and is working with mobility scooter course providers to distribute this through appropriate channels. Existing resources for mobility device users are also being updated to include the new legal requirements.

Can I park my mobility device on a footpath?
Yes, you may park a mobility device on a footpath unless there is a sign that says otherwise – however, you must ensure that it is not in the way of other users of the footpath.

Wheeled recreational devices

What’s the definition of a ‘wheeled recreational device’?
A wheeled recreational device is defined as a device with wheels which is powered primarily by human power (it may have a motor, as long as it is 200 watts or less).

So, what exactly has changed?
The rule recognises that devices such as small motorised scooters and skateboards have become an increasingly popular form of transport for adults too, and there is a need for rules applying to their use, beyond the general ‘careless and inconsiderate’ court-based offence that exists currently. The rule requires that recreational device users must ride in a careful and considerate manner and at a speed that doesn’t cause a hazard to other users of the footpath or road. As before, they are permitted to use the footpath or road, but when using the footpath, they must give way to everyone else on the footpath.

What about cyclists – can they use the footpath?
No, cyclists are not allowed to use the footpath under normal circumstances (although delivery agents, eg those delivering newspapers, circulars and post are exempt from this restriction).

In some places the footpath is not wide enough for people to walk abreast, so who should give way when someone comes along on a skateboard or scooter?
The rule says that recreational device users must give way to everyone else on the footpath.

Can I park my scooter on the footpath?
Yes, you may park a scooter on a footpath unless there is a sign that says otherwise – however, you must ensure that it is not in the way of other users of the footpath.

Cyclists’ issues

Cycle lanes

Do I have to cycle in a cycle lane or track if one’s available?
No, it is not compulsory for cyclists to use a cycle lane if one is available.

Does this mean more cycle lanes will be introduced around New Zealand?
Yes. As part of their ongoing commitment to encouraging sustainable transport modes, central and local government will be looking at ways to increase cycling facilities in future.

If cyclists are travelling in a large group, can they ride on the road even if a cycle lane is available?
Yes, but they must not ride more than two abreast and they must ride single file if passing another vehicle (including another cycle).

Can I cycle in a bus lane?
Yes, you can, unless specifically excluded by signs.

Who has priority – cyclists or buses?
A bus lane is treated as a shared facility which means no-one has right of way – but the law says that neither should impede (get in the way of) the other unnecessarily.

Cycle limit lines

What are cycle limit lines?
Limit lines are the white lines that indicate where motorists should stop at an intersection. A cycle limit line is a marking in front of a limit line which indicates where cyclists can wait safely so they can be seen easily by other motorists and can get a head start when the traffic lights turn green.

What does a cycle limit line look like?
A cycle limit line is a shorter white line painted in front of the limit line and marked by a white cycle symbol.

Are cycle limit lines in operation at the moment or is this a new initiative being introduced?
Yes, there are already some cycle limit lines operating in Hamilton and Chris tchurch.

Riding at night

What lighting equipment do I need to ensure I’m able to be seen when riding at night?
You need to be using a steady white or yellow forward-facing light and a steady or flashing rearward-facing red light when riding at night. Both need to be able to be seen in the dark, from 100 metres away. If your bicycle doesn’t have pedal reflectors, the law says you also need to wear reflective clothing (such as reflective straps on the lower half of your legs) at night to ensure you can be seen by other road users.


What does the Road User Rule say about helmets?
The Road User Rule sets out who has to wear a helmet, what standards helmets need to meet and under what circumstances they need to be worn.

How do I apply for an exemption?
You will need to contact NZ Transport Agency on 0800 699 000 or write to PO Box 2840, Wellington.

Final rules are available on our website(external link)

Last updated: 3 May 2005