20 January 2015

One of Electra's retinal scans


A rudimentary eye check is performed when you need to renew your license or upgrade it.

A machine is used to test whether each eye can see letters along a line; and your peripheral vision.  Currently that acuity is 6/9 or 20/30; meaning that one can, at the very least, see at 6 metres what someone else can see at 9 metres (or 20 feet vs 30 feet).

If however one eye does not perform well enough your license process will be put on hold and you will need to see an eye care professional for a manual examination (read: that a real live human being does it).  [Those applying for license classes 2,3,4 and 5 will need a recent medical exam - the eye test as part of that too.]

I knew from my last license renewal that I should jump straight to see an optometrist.


Our local optometrist offers driver's license eye examinations for $20 whereas their full regular prescription examination is $60 just to give you an idea.  I recently got a half-off voucher which made it really worthwhile to get the full check done regardless.

So let me tell you about my visit.

First they blow air into your eyes and check for glaucoma.

Then there are the very bright bursts of light prior to the retinal photographs (see one above - isn't it amazing?!).

After that you do the usual what-letters-can-you-see-on-the-chart-with-each-eye test.

Subsequently the optometrist works with you to refine their suggested prescription.  This is done by wearing steampunk-like glasses frames into which various lenses are placed and in front of which others are twirled - reminiscent of the school patrols putting their signs out at crossings.

You sit there saying whether you can see more clearly or less.  At the end of which you are given a script for glasses that ought to help you see better.

I am fortunate, this time around that one of my eyes has improved and, I have escaped mandatory wearing of spectacles as a condition of my license.  Next time due to 'maturing years' I am told I may not be so fortunate.

The interesting thing to me is that 4 years ago I asked my optometrist what I could do to improve my vision.  His reply was to become a long-haul truck driver. This led to deeply considering how much time I spend in front of the computer screen;  the need to take mini eye-breaks; and the possibility of improving my sight through long-distance driving.  The later led to the idea of traveling the country, long before this website saw it's infancy.

22 July 2014

New Zealand is full of roundabouts


Arriving in New Zealand with an overseas drivers license will allow you to drive for up to 12 months.

After which you will need to present to a testing agent with the appropriate documentation, medical checks and licensing fee to convert your license to a New Zealand one.  Sometimes you may have to sit the theory and practical driving tests too.


A quick-start guide to driving here (pdf) might look like:

  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Carry your license at all times while driving.
  • Keep left.
  • 50km/h maximum speed around town.
  • Up to 100km/h maximum speed with good conditions on the open road.
  • Indicate for 3 seconds before moving left or right.
  • Red traffic light means STOP, orange means get ready to stop, green means GO.


You can buy the full Road Code from most stationers and NZTA agents and it's also on-line at the NZTA website at no charge.

30 September 2013

New Zealand has 6 classes of drivers license, surprisingly numbered 1 - 6.

In order to get you class 2 you must have a class 1 (regular motor vehicle); to get class 3 or 4 you must have a class 2; to get class 5 you must have class 4. Class 6 is a motor cycle license and is separate.

The license levels relate to the maximum weight of the vehicle (including what it can carry) and the type - whether it is one rigid unit or a flexible combination of units (think truck and trailer).

You can also get endorsements on your license for driving particular kinds of vehicles that don't require an all-together new class of license.   Taxi and bus drivers may get a "P" passenger license to show that they have consideration for the responsibility of carrying passengers.  An "F" denotes forklifts.

For most small to average campervans and motorhomes available for rental, all that is required is a Class 1.  The basic rule is that you can drive a vehicle up to 6000 kg, but there are several exceptions to this.

For larger vehicles that are rigid over 6000kg but under 18000kg, you need a Class 2. This may include some of the larger 5-wheelers depending on how much you have on board.  It does apply to larger buses.

Class 3 is for vehicle combinations that weigh between 12000kg and 25000kg.  

Class 4 is for rigid vehicles over 18000kg and Class 5 for combination vehicles over 25000kg.  Passenger coaches are often Class 4, because when you think about it if they then are loaded with 35-45 people weighing an average of 80kg, then that is an additional 2800 - 3600kg, added to the luggage of perhaps another 700 - 900 kg, on top of a base coach weight around 18000kg.

For more specific information, see the New Zealand Transport Association website.

How far are you willing to push yourself beyond your comfort zone towards your goals?