Defensive Driving in New Zealand: Quick Guide

Are you headed across the ditch to NZ? As a learner or restricted licence holder in New Zealand, you have access to defensive driving courses which can help you to fast track your licence. New Zealand has a graduated licensing program that all new drivers must work through in order to become a full licence holder. So how does it work?

Are you a Learner Licence Holder?

Learner licence holders have the option to take a defensive driving course after they have a minimum of fifty hours of driving experience. During the course, the learner driver will learn the skills required to pass their restricted licence test while developing their driving skills.

Are you a Restricted Licence Holder?

Restricted licence holders are able to take a defensive driving course right away after they obtain their restricted licence. Anyone over the age of twenty-five can take this course and reduce the time that they need to hold a restrict licence from six months to just three months.

So What is Defensive Driving?

Defensive driving is a way of driving which teaches a driver to take precautions and drive in a way that helps them to protect themselves as well as other drivers on the road whether there are bad road conditions or nasty weather. It includes being able to avoid hazards, being able to anticipate what another driver might do, keeping an eye on known blind spots and being on the lookout for any factors that might impact the condition of the road or the integrity of the lane in which you are travelling. The techniques taught in a defensive driving course help to enhance a driver’s ability to prevent any negative driving situation that could have a consequence on the driver such as dangerous driving by other people or road rage which can become a serious hazard.

What Can You Expect from the New Zealand Defensive Driving Course?

The defensive driving course is approximately nine hours, but it provides inexperienced drivers with safe driving strategies that they will carry with them for their lifetime. There are four two hour sessions and there is homework after the presentation to be done at the next session. There is also a one hour in car session where the driver puts what they have learned into practice.

There are also theory modules which are completed in the class. This course is suitable for anyone who wants to understand and learn safe driving skills that they will use for their whole lives.

A defensive driving course helps drivers to make smart choices because it gives them the knowledge and confidence to be a safe driver.

What are Some of the Defensive Driving Skills You Will Learn?

When you take a defensive driving course, you will learn:

  • how to assess and identify any hazards that present themselves to you. For example, an obstacle on the road that you do not see immediately and then need to take evasive action.
  • how to search the road ahead and scan it with your eyes as you drive. This helps you to be able to be alert and check your surroundings constantly so that you can be ready for any emergency or unexpected event.
  • Being able to reduce risk by being on the lookout for factors that are the cause of most crashes.

What are the Main Defensive Driving Techniques?

There are many techniques involved in defensive driving, including some standard ones such as:

  • Always expecting the unexpected and being ready for those situations so that your reaction time is faster;
  • Always being alert when driving. If you feel tired, you should not operate a motor vehicle because it could reduce your reaction time and be a factor that leads to an accident;
  • Speed control because driving over the speed limit is a major cause of crashes. By keeping within the posted speed limit you are better able to react to other drivers on the road.
  • Eliminating distractions while you drive including not using a cell phone, eating, or being distracted by your passengers.

Be Aware of Other Drivers

You should adjust your driving based on the other drivers on the road and be on the alert and able to react to their actions. Watch for pedestrians and cyclists and yield to them if it is required by law.

Cyclists need plenty of space and you should give them a wide berth when you move around them. When you approach hidden driveways, be on the alert for vehicles that might pull out from them including unmarked driveways or roads and businesses.

Keeping Your Vehicle Maintained

As a defensive driver, you should ensure that your vehicle is maintained and that you inspect it before you get out on the road. Tires should be correctly inflated, oil should be checked and at proper levels and all fluids in the vehicle should be topped up. Your windshield wipers should be operational and so should your headlights. Brakes should be reliable and you should ensure that you have enough gas to reach your next destination.

Always leave enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you to allow for sudden braking, unexpected turns, merging or changing traffic lights.

Why Take a Defensive Driving Course?

Defensive driving courses provide drivers with a crucial skill set that they will need for the remainder of their years of driving. Defensive driving courses can improve safe driving habits and have a positive impact in that they can lower insurance premiums. These courses can help you to get a head start on moving towards your full unrestricted licence by shortening the amount of time required to be in each phase.

If you are interested in taking a defensive driving course, check in your local area to see what is available. These courses are an investment because they provide you with exactly what you need to be a better driver and to be safe on the road. You will be able to keep yourself and others safe with what you learn and you will be alive to certain things that you should be watching for that you may not have considered in the past.

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