12 Mar 2014

Rural NZ 'penalised' by new driving rules

11:33 am on 12 March 2014

Tougher new driving regulations introduced two years ago were intended to make journeys safer but one rural organisation believes rural New Zealand has been short-changed.

The new regulations included zero alcohol limits for drivers under 20, lifting the driving age by a year and making the tests for restricted and full licences more rigorous and complex.

At the same time, however, numerous rural areas that used to offer restricted and full testing services ceased to do so.

Rural Women New Zealand executive officer Noeline Holt says rural communities have been hard done by, and new drivers in these areas have to travel a lot further to get licensed.

She says an access problem caused by government cost-cutting has developed.

"We want the kids to have their licences. We want the kids to learn all the rudiments of safe driving. However, when they take away the opportunities in rural areas, it just makes it that much tougher (and) a temptation for people to break the rules."

The Transport Agency says the changes had nothing to do with cost-cutting; rather, the tougher tests required sites with multiple lanes and a minimum level of traffic to achieve the level of challenge required.

The agency says some centres that did not offer the necessary conditions were removed from the testing regime.