dai, I must admit that my single foray to New Zealand was only long enough to pick up a T-shirt and a few kiwi bird statues while the plane was being refueled, so I can't comment on driving there.
I have, however, driven extensively in the US and Germany, and when we visited Britain in 1984, we rented a car. British driving was quite an experience for me. Opinions varied as to who thought I was on the wrong side of the road. Sometimes I thought I was on the wrong side, and sometimes they thought I was on the wrong side.
Now that the joke is told, I would have to say that, for the most part, Europeans drive fairly well, although sometimes a little fast for conditions. I recall being on the motorway (freeway) in England/Scotland, and not realizing for a while that I had a buildup of cars behind me, cruising at 10k or so above the speed limit in the fast (right) lane. They would not pass on the left, which I found quite odd, since nearly everywhere I've driven in the US, people weave all around slower traffic. Naturally, once I realized what I was doing, I quit doing it, but it was an interesting lesson.
Your remark about the "safe" drivers calls to mind an incident I once observed. In this case, it was a "blue-hair" (old woman with hair so white it has a blue tinge) driving a sedan with a rental trailer. The trailer had markings on it that said "speed limit 35 MPH" or words to that effect. Well, that's what she was doing, and in the fast lane of a four-lane (two each way) highway that had a posted limit well above that. I got stuck behind her, and she did an amazing job of maintaining that speed. She even maintained that speed through the intersection with the red light showing. Fortunately she didn't cause an accident, but it just goes to show you how concentrating on one thing can make you blind to all the rest.
--I know what I like--