Driving Age Up to 16 Passed


The Government has this afternoon past the bill which raises the driving age to 16 from August 1.
There are no exemptions.

The Land Transport (Road Safety and other Matters) Amendment Bill which includes the following provisions should be fully implemented by mid-2012.

  • Raising the minimum driving age from 15 to 16 on 1 August this year.
  • Providing for the NZ Transport Agency to strengthen the restricted licence test.
  • Allowing police to take alcohol readings for research purposes from all drivers involved in fatal or serious injury crashes who have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) between .05 and .08 (50 milligramsand 80milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or 250 and 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.
  • Lowering the youth drink drive limit for drivers under 20 years of age from BAC 0.03 (30 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or 150 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath) to BAC zero.
  • Repeat drink drive offenders will be subject to a BAC zero limit for 3 years after they receive their licence back.
  • Provide for infringement offences and the associated infringement penalties for the breach of the zero drink drive limits.
  • Allowing Courts the option to require repeat or serious drink drive offenders to use alcohol interlocks, after a mandated 90-day disqualification. Interlocks must be used for at least 12 months, and can only be removed where the offender shows a violation-free period of 6 months (reducing to 3 months if an approved alcohol assessment is also completed) and offenders will be subject to a zero BAC limit for the 3 years after the removal of their interlock.
  • Doubling the maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death from five years to ten years.

    More detail on the timeline:


    Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the legislation targets the core of problem drivers which cause one in three deaths on our roads.

    “The Government is sending a serious warning to high-risk drivers by giving judges the power to impose a maximum sentence of ten years for dangerous driving causing death, double the previous penalty.”

    “This legislation means that the courts can require repeat alcohol offenders to complete an interlock programme – this technology physically prevents them from driving their cars.

    “Offenders will also be subject to a zero BAC limit licence for three years following a period of disqualification.”

    “Raising the licence age from 15 to 16, and measures to enable the restricted driving test to be strengthened reflect the disproportionate number of fatal and serious crashes involving young people.”

    The Bill will also allow Police to take alcohol readings for research purposes from drivers involved in fatal or serious injury crashes who have a blood alcohol concentration between 50 and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

    Following Royal Assent, the driving age change will come into force on 1 August this year. Transitional arrangements will be in place for drivers aged under 16 when the driving age increases. Other provisions will come into force over the next 12 months.

    Further information on the Road Safety and Other Matters Amendment Bill is available at www.transport.govt.nz

    They will be allowed to continue to hold their licence and once they turn 16 will be able to apply to the NZTA for an exemption to progress to the next licensing stage provided they have held their licence for the required minimum period, and have not committed any traffic offences.

    NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield said young drivers were over-represented in crashes, and the changes introduced by the Bill would address the key factors which put them at increased risk.
    “Too many of our young people are dying or being badly injured in crashes on our roads. Raising the minimum driving age to 16, bringing in a zero alcohol limit for drivers under 20 and allowing the NZTA to make the Restricted Licence practical test more difficult will all help to improve the poor safety record of young drivers in New Zealand.”

    Earlier Federated Farmers strongly opposed the bill saying: “What we wanted was to keep the age at 15 but vastly improve the way young people learn to drive. You cannot beat time behind the wheel.”

    The youth wing of the Council of Trade Unions has put out a statement saying:

    “Increasing the driving age is only going to delay the issues associated with unskilled drivers on the road. It’s not an age issue, it’s a skill issue. This country doesn’t offer free or cheap and accessible professional driver training. It’s a pity the Government has decided to keep the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and not move it to the top by committing to free or highly subsidised professional driver training and spending more on public transport.”

    The AA strongly supports the principle of improving the skills and safety of young drivers and is pleased about the change to a zero blood alcohol youth limit and a more demanding test to gauge whether someone is ready to drive unsupervised.

    However, the AA is concerned that the period of time until a learner driver can graduate to a restricted licence has been left at six months.

    “In terms of road safety, experience behind the wheel rather than the age at which you start is what really counts,” says AA General Manager Motoring Affairs Mike Noon.

    “Supervised drivers on their learner licence are in fact the safest drivers on our roads. They are involved in very few accidents. Unfortunately, once someone starts driving solo on their restricted licence they become the drivers most likely to crash.”

    The AA is urging parents of young drivers to keep them on their learner licence for longer than the minimum requirements.




    1. Matt L says:

      Yes training and time behind the wheel is important but it has already been proved that a 16 year olds brain is more developed than a 15 year olds. If anything this doesn’t go far enough and I would also like to see things like power limits on the kinds of cars learner drivers can use.

    2. Jeremy says:

      Driving is all about time behind the wheel but at high school age you’re more likely to be driving around with mates so might get into trouble. It’s a shame most imported cars are automatic because with manuals you really get a better feel and sense of control of a car.

    3. Matt says:

      Forbidding learning from anyone who’s not a licensed instructor is on my wish list. They don’t have to be a professional, but they must at least have the appropriate I endorsement.

      If you learn from friends and family, you pick up their bad habits. That includes road rage, tail-gating, poor indicating, speeding, the whole works. My girlfriend’s road rage habit, learned from her father, was really bad when we first got together. It’s only my observations about how bad it was that have calmed her down. Now I’m working on her tail-gating, again a learned behaviour, and one that’s very dangerous. If she’d had to learn from a person who had trained as an instructor, that likely wouldn’t be part of her driving arsenal, especially if the requirements for being an instructor were multiple observed drives with failure criteria including the above.

      16′s better than 15, but still pretty low by international standards. When the brain doesn’t fully mature until about 25, every extra year of maturation is lives saved and taxpayer dollars not expended on cleaning up after serious crashes.

    4. Scott says:

      any word when this law will take effect?

    5. Jon C says:

      @Scott August 1

    6. Mike says:

      They should have made Jafas get another licence to drive on the open road, tow trailors and drive 4wds!!

      In 14 years since finishing at a rural primary school on the coromandel, Aucklanders have killed 4 out of the 22 in my class in 3 different crashes.

      It is strange I know several 15 y/o that have the capabilty to do all those without any problems yet most people from Auckland who have been driving for years seem completetly incapable. (As kids when bored at the beach, we would sit down by the boat ramps and almost piss ourselfs laughing at these monkeys trying to back their boats into the water)

    7. Chris says:

      Sad to see it go up, but it had to happen one day.

    8. Jeremy says:

      @Mike, if you’re talking about car crashes it takes 2 people to crash.

    9. millsy says:

      I actually belive that driver training needs to be done through the high school system, have it as a cumpolosory NCEA subject at school, 1 year of intensive classroom workshops and training to get a learners, and then follow through for the restricted and full. Bring in professional instructors.

      Who knows, it may even allow people forge out a pathway to a driving career.

    10. Mike says:


      You tell me what a person can do to avoid somebody driving around a tight blind corner flatout on the wrong side of the road. In one case they had already stuck their car in the bank trying to avoid it, the other was take the crash or go over the cliff?
      In both cases were not talking about a car crossing over the line by centremeters but most of the lane.

      Perhaps being rear ended when slowing down for traffic and pushed into the path of on comming trucks because the &&% behind wasn’t paying attention and couldn’t control a heavy trailor under braking? (and the idiot was towing a 25′ boat it with a pretend 4wd)

      There is a reason why during the summer we take the heavy land crusier with the nice big wrap around bullbars. Maybe they’ll still get us but I’m sure to leave a lasting memory for them with that.

      In comparison I’ve known more people who have been killed by other drivers whocouldn’t handle driving outside a city or are incapable of handling heavier vehicles than those killed by learner drivers. I still see the same rubbish driving every summer.

      If they really cared about lives instead of just politcal points they would split the private licence class into two. To drive a 4wd or tow a trailor would need the higher class. You couldn’t possible do that could you, because there are to many old farts with boats and caravans who wouldn’t pass.

    11. George D says:

      Mike’s absolutely right. And part of the professional training requirements, you’d teach people the difference between motorway and open-road driving. You’d teach them the skills needed to drive conservatively.

      Make no mistake, National’s friends in the farming community have had a big hand in preventing real changes in the process. They’d scream if for example they were forced to sit a license to pull a heavy trailer. A minor step forward, but mainly window-dressing. Much of New Zealand’s policy process is still captured by this minority.

    12. Matt says:

      On the up side of the past month’s transport safety developments, we have this.
      On the down side, we have dramatic cuts to road policing and road safety spending.

      On balance, I think the roads are less safe than they were a month ago.

    13. James B says:

      Now can we please tackle older drivers who never learnt the road rules and got handed their licence by the local cop after a drive around the block? I note some of the newer laws are completely ignored (notably by older driver), such as not indicating upon leaving a round about and not waiting until both sides of a pedestrian crossing are clear before driving off. As one of the younger generation, who supposedly can’t drive and are a danger to all around them, it annoys me that older drivers automatically assume they are better than younger one.

    14. Matt says:

      James, why do you think I want, at the least, theory testing with every licence renewal? It’s all well and good tackling young bad drivers, but we’ve got several generations of old bad drivers who’re killing themselves and others and will continue to do so for many more years.

      Couple that with forbidding instruction by unqualified family and friends, and we might start to really go places.

    15. Mark says:

      I’ve got a 14 yr old boy, who will hopefully slip in before 1 Aug.

      I want him to start learning then, and to have as much time drving me around. 15-16 isn’t the accident danger age, it’s later than that - when they start getting their own cars.

      My view is that the longer spent driving a family car, with parents the better.

      I agree with earlier comments about professional skills. But it’s also building up the hours of experience. Well before my boy heads off with his mates to uni somewhere - with access to cars, I want to make sure he’s done hundreds of hours driving me and family, in all the relevant road conditions - from suburb to motorway to night time open road.

      I lost my brother in a car accident, and it’s something I take seriously - but with the move to 16, I’m actually worried it will make things worse with less experience behind a wheel, when they have their own fast cars.

    16. Matt says:

      Mark, I’ll take brain development over time behind the wheel, sorry. Maturity is a physiological absolute, for everyone, but time behind the wheel is not a given for anyone.
      For every parent like you who takes it incredibly seriously, there’ll be parents like the one whose son got pulled over on Highway Patrol (yes, fine, it’s Aus, but we’re not that different as a culture) and was found to be driving his mother’s car without a licence - and she’d given him the keys!

    17. Chris says:

      I agree with Mark. 15 year olds aren’t dangerous behind the wheel, as they should have a responsible person with them.
      Unfortunately its just a percentage of young drivers who have brought the age up. Its later when they start combining alcohol with driving and upgrade to faster cars.
      I’m 17 and have had my full license for over a year. I have been trained well and have gone to defensive driving training. Riding a motorcycle on the road (and off-road) was my key training though, as the alertness and reaction speed which comes with riding is useful for when I drive.

    18. richard says:

      I agree with Chris, riding a motorcycle sharpens one up. I dont ride a motorbike but have cycled all my life. On two wheels you can read the road and environment in a way no car driver can.

      As an older driver I have had reason to keep up with law changes through my life but most get their licence and then ignore their responsibility to keep up to date.

      I believe the age should be 17 or 18 not 16 but you should be allowed to ride low powered scooters, erroneously called mopeds in our law, at 15. This would kill the farming community’s argument about needing a car in the country. I learnt at 19 and was disadvantaged because my mates could drive at 15, but my father deemed it was too young and it was his car! If all teenagers have to wait until 18 none are disadvantaged.

      To get ones licence only professional teachers should be allowed to teach…it’s a serious matter not a game! The test should include real skills such as emergency braking etc. etc .

      At the time of relicensing drivers should be retested, theory and practical. A lot changes in ten years!! The theory should be a proper exam, no multichoice guesses and pre published answer sheets.

      Our whole system is a nonsense and offences like red light breaches should carry automatic loss of licence. Just imagine if pilots were treated like our drivers there would be planes dropping out of the sky all the time.

    19. George D says:

      I agree with the others. A long learner period, with a lot of logged hours (as is done in most Australian states) would have been much better than the non-change we’ve just had.

    20. Kurt says:

      Whose the Nanny state now National?

      Ban those evil 15 year olds. They almost undoubtedly have more common sense than later teens and a far better knowledge of the road rules than a hell of a lot of older drivers.

      If its such common sense as the PM so often quotes then why is the 20 years and above alcohol limit so damned high at 400 whilst the 19 year old and 363 day driver is zero.

      If it is such common sense why is prosecuting a drunk driver such a mine field for Police?

      Sort the law out there which would do a lot more good and then pat yourselves on the back.

    21. Dion henry says:

      this sucks i am 14 and i turn 15 on august 8th and i have been studying the road code and now i found out his bad news :/

    22. Lisa Willis says:

      My son has been looking forward to getting his license since he was 12, he was going to buy a scooter that only required a learners license which meant he could then become a little more independant, getting a part time job, taking himself to rugby practise etc, he had even saved for it and also planned which vehicle to buy when he got his restricted. That doesnt sound like the plans of a person who is going to make poor judgements on the roads and hardly on a scooter! What about the 15-16 yr olds that are cruising around with a V6-V8 under their tail!! There should be some legislation to have kids driving ‘sensible’ cars for a longer period before they are fully licensed! JMHO

    23. Scott says:

      Car restrictions for learner drivers have a lot of flow on effects that are not often fully considered.

      The vast majority of cars can reach 160+km/h, fast enough to cause major carnage.

      Placing a restriction on learner drivers would prevent many children being taught in their parents cars. This will lead to more 3 and 4 car households and likely reduce the amount of supervision youth learner drivers receive from there parents. This will mean it is harder for poor people and those living in areas where parking is difficult/expensive to teach there children to drive.

      I strongly believe that it is safer to learn in say a commodore/falcon than a older corolla/nissan pulsar. All cars are fast enough to cause casualties, just a youth in there parents car is likely to be better supervised.

      Transport, are a major drain on our economy, it is really inefficient to create policy to discourage car-sharing within households.


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