In the News: Tourists to Take Driving Tests?

June 17, 2014 at 4:02 PM

It is a sad fact that the news is dotted with tragic accidents with tourists to New Zealand being involved in deadly collisions, killing residents and often the tourists themselves.

In an incident that occurred on May 31, 2014 at Rakaia, three people lost their lives: two 12 year olds and a mother of one of the girls.  The accident was caused by a visitor to New Zealand.

Two thirds of countries have people driving on the right side of the road, and only a third of countries have people driving on the left hand side.

2.7 million tourists visited New Zealand last year and most of them were from countries where the residents drive on the right.

It is true that anyone can make a mistake, but the mistake of driving on the incorrect side of the road can cost people their lives.

How can mistakes be minimised?

Prime Minister Key doesn’t think that law changes are the asnwer when it comes to tourists driving in New Zealand. He stated that that accident rate of tourists driving in New Zealand versus accidents caused by native New Zealanders was the same per capita. He said that he didn’t see it as a big issue.

The Prime Minister stated that a number of working groups are taking a look at this issue. He stated that airlines and some car rental companies are taking a proactive role to try and educate drivers from other countries.

Mr. Key stated that it is important to recognise the fact that many roads in New Zealand are difficult for inexperienced drivers to navigate.

He stated that for example, Lindis Pass in winter can be one of the more challenging roadways.

Clive Matthew-Wilson is a road safety campaigner and car review editor. He said that the New Zealand Government should make it much more difficult for foreigners to get behind the wheel of a rental car.

He believes that travellers should not be permitted to rent a car until they pass a driving test online. Wilson stated that the government needs to implement a test that is interactive and must be passed before a foreign driver can legally rent a car in New Zealand.

Dave Cliff is the Assistant Commissioner of road policing and stated that police have worked with the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Ministry of Transport and the Accident Compensation Corporation to try to resolve this issue. They are also working on ensuring that rental companies take the time to brief customers about the regulations and rules of the road before they get behind the wheel.

The national average of fatal crashes involved fewer than 2 per cent of foreign drivers, however in areas that are more popular with tourists like Queenstown, that percentage rose to as much as 25 per cent, Mr. Cliff said.

Kate Meldrum is a general manager for Tourism Holdings Limited and is in charge of marketing and the customer experience generally.

She said that tourists who want to rent their campervans are provided with extensive information on the rules of the road for New Zealand in several languages both before and during the time of their trip.


Category: The Driving Test