Traffic Offences 

What happens when someone is killed as a result of a car accident?

The crash will be investigated by the local Serious Crash Unit. This is a Police team that investigates serious or fatal road crashes in order to determine the cause of the crash. 

The Police will inform the coroner of the death. The coroner’s role is to investigate the cause of death when someone dies suddenly, suspiciously or violently. More about this is on our Investing the cause of death page.

If it is determined that the accident was the result of an unlawful action (e.g. driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous driving) on the part of one of the people involved and that person is still alive, then the Police can prosecute that person for one or more driving offences. The person who has been charged will have to attend a court hearing and enter a plea (guilty or not guilty), and they will need legal advice.

More information about going to court is on our General court processes page.

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How do demerit points work? 

You receive demerit points for certain driving offences. If you accumulate 100 or more of these within a two-year period, your driving licence could be suspended for three months - which means you are not allowed to drive during this time.

Demerit points normally remain on your record for two years, but if you are disqualified from driving for six months or longer, all demerit points on your licence record will be cancelled.

The number of demerit points you receive depends on the seriousness of the driving offence. For example, you would receive 10 demerit points for driving up to 10km/hour faster than the speed limit and 50 demerits for driving more than 35 km/hour faster than the speed limit. If you are caught using a mobile phone while driving you can be given 20 demerits.

For the full list of offences and their demerit values, as well as other information about demerit points, visit the NZ Transport Agency website.

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Why was my vehicle impounded?

Certain driving offences can result in the vehicle involved being impounded by the Police. These include driving while suspended or disqualified, or driving without a current driving licence when you have been forbidden to drive until you have a licence. The full list of grounds for impounding a vehicle are on the NZ Transport Agency website.

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My car was impounded after an unlicensed family member was caught driving it - what can I do to get my car back?

When a vehicle is impounded, it is taken away to a storage facility for 28 days. After the 28 days you,  the owner, will have 10 days to claim back their vehicle. You will need to pay towing and storage fees before you can get your vehicle back. If your vehicle was impounded because it was being used in street racing or street car stunts you will have to take the vehicle straight to a garage or vehicle testing station and get a new warrant of fitness, before you can drive it again.

If you were not driving the vehicle at the time it was impounded, you may be able to appeal against the impoundment. Grounds on which you can appeal include:

  • the vehicle was stolen at the time
  • you didn’t know the driver wasn’t licensed and couldn’t have been expected to know
  • you did all you could to try to prevent the driver from doing street car stunts or street racing in the car.
  • the driver was speeding because of a serious medical emergency (such as a passenger giving birth).

However you can’t appeal on grounds of undue hardship.

You’ll find more details on the NZ Transport Agency website.

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How do I report bad or dangerous driving?

If you believe the driving is dangerous enough to be life-threatening, call the Police on 111.

These are your options for less serious incidents:

  • You can report erratic driving to the Police by calling *555.  (You can also use this number to report: a road accident in which no one was injured; traffic congestion; a breakdown or an obstruction on the highway). 
  • You can report an unsafe driving incident to the Police by completing an online form. The Police will investigate and, if appropriate, contact the other driver about it - but they won’t necessarily prosecute the driver.
  • If you have witnessed unsafe driving and you think the driver should be prosecuted for it, you will need to make a formal complaint to the local Police Station.

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Is it illegal to ride a bicycle on the footpath?

It is in fact against the law to ride a bicycle on the footpath, with the following exceptions: 

  • you are delivering newspapers, mail or leaflets; 
  • your bicycle has wheels with a diameter of less than 355 millimetres (e.g. a bicycle suitable for a young child); or
  • there is a sign indicating the footpath is a shared pedestrian and cycle path. Councils can designate that certain footpaths be shared between cyclists and pedestrians.

You can view the New Zealand Code for Cyclists for this and other rules relating to cycling.

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Will a driving conviction prevent me from gaining New Zealand citizenship?

One of the prerequisites for gaining New Zealand citizenship is that you can show that you are a person of “good character”.

If your conviction occurred within the last three years, you spent time in prison in the last seven years, or you have had a prison sentence of more than five years, you are unlikely to be able to meet this requirement.

If you are not sure whether you meet the “good character” requirement, you can contact the Citizenship Office (call 0800 22 51 51 or email them) to discuss the matter.

More general information about applying to be a New Zealand citizen is on our Citizenship page