Home | Browse Topics | Criminal & traffic law | Driving and traffic law | Unsafe driving

Criminal & traffic law

Enforcement powers of police and parking wardens

Unsafe driving

Driving recklessly or dangerously

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 7, 35, 36, 36AA

You must not drive recklessly, or drive at a speed or in a way that is or could be dangerous. For this you can jailed for up to three months or fined up to $4,500, and you must be disqualified for six months or more.

If you injure someone through reckless or dangerous driving, you can be jailed for up to five years or fined up to $20,000, and you must be disqualified for at least one year. If someone is killed you can be jailed for up to 10 years or fined up to $20,000, and you must be disqualified for at least one year.

Careless or inconsiderate driving

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 8, 37–39

You must not drive carelessly or without reasonable consideration for other people. For this you can be fined up to $3,000 and disqualified for a period decided by the judge.

If you injure or kill someone through careless or inconsiderate driving, you can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $4,500, and you must be disqualified for at least six months.

When someone is injured or killed because of your careless driving, the penalty is greater still if you were speeding, or overtaking illegally, or on the wrong side of the road. In those cases you can be jailed for up to three years or fined up to $10,000, and you must be disqualified for at least one year.

Note: Careless driving can be committed with any vehicle, not just a motor vehicle. This can include bicycles, skateboards, in-line skates, and roller skates.

Using a mobile phone while driving

Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, rule 7.3A

In general, you cannot use your mobile phone while driving. This ban covers situations where you’re holding the phone and using it to text, email, make calls, watch videos, or for any other communication. It includes when you’re stopping at an intersection, traffic lights, or you’re waiting in a queue of traffic. The penalty for this is a $150 fine and 20 demerit points.

The only time you can use your mobile phone while driving is when it’s “hands-free” – for example, when your phone is mounted on the dashboard with voice recognition on. NZTA recommends this for things like navigation and music that you set up before you start driving. For a full breakdown of legal phone use while driving, see the Waka Kotahi in “Where to go for more support”.

Did this answer your question?

Driving and traffic law

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Applying for a limited licence” (guide)

This Plain English guide, plus template application forms and affidavits, will help you apply for a limited licence. It’s available on the Community Law website – www.communitylaw.org.nz

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)


Phone: 0800 699 000
Email: info@nzta.govt.nz

The NZTA site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

You can read and download fact sheets and other publications from their site, or you can order hard copies by contacting them, including their fact-sheet on Legal mobile phone use while driving.


NZ Police

Frequently Asked Questions


The “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section of this webpage have Frequently Asked Questions about traffic fines, speeding, demerit points and where you can pay your fines.

Consumer protection

“Parking, towing and clamping”


This Consumer Protection webpage has information about the law covering tow trucks and wheel-clamping on public and private property, and about unreasonable fees in private car parks.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top