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New Zealand Road Code Test

Speed limits

Speed limits

Excessive speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads. On average, 170 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

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

  • 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.

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.

Picture of a slow driver holding up traffic

Slow drivers

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 which requires you to drive at a lower speed (such as heavy vehicles, which have a lower speed limit than cars – see table below).

Some examples of speed signs are shown below.

50 km/h sign

The maximum speed you can travel is 50 km/h


70 km/h sign

The maximum speed you can travel is 70 km/h


30 km/h temporary sign

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


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.

Open road speed limits

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

100 km speed limit sign Derestriction sign

Maximum speed 100 km/h

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

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

Vehicle type Maximum open road speed limit
Heavy motor vehicles (vehicles with a gross vehicle mass* of over 3500 kg) and heavy motor vehicles towing trailers 90 km/h
Vehicles with a gross vehicle mass* of over 2000 kg and are displaying school bus signs 80 km/h
Light vehicles towing trailers 90 km/h
Motorcycles, when ridden by riders who have a learner licence 70 km/h
Special-type heavy motor vehicles without springs or other effective suspension systems, with pneumatic tyres 45 km/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 the NZTA.

Limited speed zone sign

The sign below means that you can drive at the open road speed limit, provided it is safe to do so. However, you must not exceed 50 km/h if conditions are hazardous because:

  • the weather is bad
  • visibility is poor
  • there are people, animals, cyclists or lots of vehicles on the road
  • the road is in poor condition.
Limited speed zone sign

Limited speed zone


Important

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

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

Other signs that mean you must adjust your speed

Accident sign

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

Accident signs

Accident

School bus signs

The signs below will be displayed on school buses. If a school bus has stopped to let children on or off, you must slow down and drive at 20 km/h or less until you are well past the bus, no matter what direction you are coming from.

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 35 km/h. The arrows show which direction the curve goes.

35 km/h arrows sign 35 km/h curve sign

Curve warning signs

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