If you have a son or daughter about to start driving, or one that already has their learner licence, upcoming changes to the driver licence system will affect them. Currently all licences for drivers under 75 years old are issued for 10 years, but after December 1 2014 all learner and restricted licences will be only valid for five years. The changes are to encourage drivers to step through the journey towards a full licence more quickly, and should reduce the number of restricted drivers breaking the law by driving on their own between 10pm and 5am.
NZTA has taken all the best ideas from the European Union licence and has redesigned our New Zealand licence. The result is a licence that is easier to read and decipher by police and your everyday users – there no more checking the back for what the codes on the front mean.
The front now contains simplified information: Your name, date of birth, licence number, donor status, signature, photo, type of licence (learner, restricted or full) and your address. It’s possibly not a good idea to have your address on the licence because if you present it as ID the person looking at it immediately knows that you are not at home and it only takes one phone call to a shady friend for your house to become a burglary target.
On the rear of the card the licence number is repeated. On the left will be listed the conditions of the licence. These might include whether you need to wear glasses while driving and if you can only drive an automatic vehicle. On the right there is a table which contains simple icons to represent the classes of car (class 1), heavy vehicle (classes 2-5) and motorbike (class 6). It also contains a list of endorsements on the licence that allow drivers to drive different types of vehicles (e.g. forklift truck or vehicles with rollers), carry certain goods (e.g. hazardous goods), instruct other drivers or work as a tow truck driver. The different types of classes and endorsements are listed here.
If your son or daughter is about to learn to drive the quickest way for them to learn the Road Code and get their learner licence is to use the free Road Code quizzes at DrivingTests.co.nz. They have the official questions from NZTA for car and motorbike.
If they already have their learner licence, they will need to book in a practical test to get their restricted licence. The practical test was made more difficult in 2013, making it all the more important to get enough practical experience, preferably some of it with a driving instructor so that bad habits aren’t passed on (driving examiners are trained to spot these habits).
If they have their restricted licence it’s a good idea to have them do a defensive driving course as this knocks up to 6 months of the time required to get a full licence, dropping the minimum age to 17½ years as opposed to 18 years. They can then take the final practical exam which, when passed, will give them their full licence and the ability to drive unsupervised.
Changes to blood alcohol level in December
On December 1 2014 the maximum blood alcohol limit is changing, too, dropping from 400mcg/litre of breath to 250mcg per litre of breath to bring us into line with Australia and the majority of Europe. The equivalent measurement is 80mg/100ml of blood (0.08%) down to 50mg/100ml of blood (0.05%). However, remember that the limit for drivers aged 19 and under remains effectively zero – less than one drink will put them over as the 30mcg leniency level is virtually nothing.