new zealand

Driving in New Zealand

And you thought I was done with New Zealand content? Nope. Not quite!


 

We were on our way out of yet another small town in New Zealand during our road trip. As we exited the town, we had to go through a large roundabout. Just before exiting the roundabout, we approached a small car in the outer lane that was stalled, or randomly parked at a crooked angle in the middle of road? It was also sort of straddling the two lanes.

As we slowly drove by, I leaned across Bryce who was driving, to see if the driver of this little red car was OK. Was the person alright? Did they crash? Do they need medical attention?

I saw a man slumped over in the driver seat with his head down.

It was late afternoon and there were a lot of other cars around.

After fully exiting the roundabout, Bryce pulled over on the side of the road so we could go check on the driver. Just as we had parked, we heard a bunch of loud honking behind us. We turned around in our seats and saw a medium-size truck swerve. Then we saw the red car zoom away in the opposite direction from us.

The truck driver pulled over behind us and he and his passenger got out of their car and looked behind. The red car was nowhere to be seen.

We deduced that the man may have been drunk. There was really no other explanation for the erratic behavior.

The rest of our drive, we stayed on guard and on the lookout for the red car. We never saw him again.

This is just one example of the not-so-great driving we witnessed while in New Zealand for nearly three weeks.

There were also the two car accidents we saw on our way out of Milford Sound.

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Bryce has relatives in New Zealand, who we stayed with in Wellington, and they said that drivers in New Zealand are known for being pretty bad. It’s partly because there are a lot of people who grow up driving on country roads and then move to the cities and just aren’t accustomed to it, they said. It’s partly the tourists who come and aren’t used to driving on narrow roads or on the “opposite side of the road” for some, they said. It’s also just partly the fact that they are just, uh, bad drivers, they said.

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The very direct signs along highways and long stretches of road made me feel uneasy at the beginning of our trip.

“Are we going to be OK?” I remember asking Bryce a few days into our trip. “Do you think we are endangering ourselves?”

Maybe I was being a little dramatic. But, how would you feel if you are in a new country and you are seeing signs left and right that are cautioning drivers? Their signage was unlike anything I had seen been before. Theirs warnings were often grim.

We were safe and cautious, as we would be at home. I guess when you’re driving somewhere unfamiliar, you just need to be even more aware of your surroundings than usual.

Have you experienced driving in a foreign country? What was it like?

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