Brace yourself, it’s tourist driving season

New Zealanders can expect another summer of serious accidents involving tourists, says the car review website editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an active road safety campaigner, says:
“Many of these accidents could be avoided if tourists were prevented from renting cars within 24 hours of arriving from overseas.”
The weekend accident, in which a group of tourists crashed a car within a few hours of arrival, is one of a series of recent accidents caused by a combination of confusion and fatigue.”
Every expert on the subject says the same thing: travelling from one country to another tires you out, disorients you and makes you a high risk motorist. Even flying from Australia makes you a much higher risk motorist.”
 “Driving tired is as dangerous as driving drunk. Drunk people would not be allowed to rent a car. Why should tired drivers be allowed to rent a car?”
Although many tourist crashes occur at the end of their stay, a significant number of serious collisions occur within 24 hours of the tourists’ arrival.
Matthew-Wilson gave the example of Hong Kong national Shu Na Lo, 27, who killed his mother and seriously injured his sister after falling asleep behind the wheel of a rental car he had hired directly after arriving from a flight from Australia.
Under the tourism industry’s Code of Practice, which is voluntary, tourists are given a list of questions such as: ‘I feel well prepared to drive in NZ Yes/No.’
Matthew-Wilson asks: “Does anyone seriously expect tourists to say they’re not safe to be behind the wheel of a rented car? Of course not. Even assuming that the driver understood the meaning of the questions after a long flight from another country, he clearly thought he was safe to be behind the wheel of a car.”
“We don’t need to ask tourists silly questions. We need to stop them getting behind the wheel of a vehicle within 24 hours of arriving from overseas. I’m quite happy for this 24 hour ban to apply to New Zealanders as well.”
Matthew-Wilson’s 14,000 word report on tourist accidents: Driven to Distraction, also called for all drivers, including New Zealanders, to pass a computerised awareness test before being allowed to rent a vehicle.
“Don’t tell me it can’t be done. A similar, mechanical test, developed in 1930s London to test bus drivers, was so effective it was still being used by the Royal Air Force to test prospective pilots at the beginning of the 21st century.”
Matthew-Wilson adds:
“The government always likes to play down the significance of tourist accidents, claiming such accidents are not that serious or that frequent, but the people who live around tourist areas know otherwise. Many of these tourist drivers should not be allowed on the road.”
“By refusing to take effective action to end tourist accidents, the government is effectively saying that tourist industry profits are more important than the lives of ordinary New Zealanders.”
Matthew-Wilson’s plan to prevent tourist accidents:
1.     Restrictions on the renting of vehicles to travellers within 24 hours of their arrival from overseas.
2.     An interactive, computer-based competency assessment that must be completed before a vehicle can be rented to a traveller recently arrived from overseas.
This same test should apply before a vehicle ownership can be transferred, if the purchaser of the vehicle is using a foreign passport or international driver’s licence.
Matthew-Wilson’s proposed test would require drivers to follow a simple moving object on a touch computer screen. This would test hand-eye coordination and general alertness. A similar, mechanical test was successfully used by London Transport in the 1930s to screen prospective bus drivers. The test was so successful that it was still used by the Royal Air Force in the early twenty-first century for evaluating pilots.
3.     A register of foreign drivers operating vehicles in New Zealand. Rental companies would be required to lodge details, in an NZTA database, of vehicle hires to individuals where their passport shows they have arrived in the country within the previous month. Where Police have concerns about the operation of any vehicle by a foreign driver, they should have the power to restrict the use of further vehicles by that driver.
4.     Changes to road engineering, with improved signage, rumble strips, median barriers and roadside fencing installed wherever practicable on all high-risk rural roads, not just the few roads selected by the government for special treatment.
5.     Improvements to the rental vehicle fleet.
a.     a requirement that all rental vehicles meet reasonable crash standards
b.     a requirement that all rental vehicles have electronic stability control.
6.     Encouragement of alternatives to self-driving
Matthew-Wilson says the government has spent years encouraging tourists to come here, without giving much thought to the fact that many of these tourists would be driving without suitable skills.
Matthew-Wilson says many tourists drive because of a perceived lack of suitable alternatives.
“The crisis over tourist accidents offers an unprecedented commercial opportunity to provide tourists with alternatives to driving. We should be making commercial drivers available to operate tourist rental vehicles. We should be organising bus and minibus tours, together with full-scale train operations aimed squarely at the tourist market.”