Government failing to act over tourist accidents, says safety campaigner

The government’s strategy for dealing with tourist accidents has been a dismal failure, says the car review website
Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“Hardly a week goes by without a serious accident involving foreign nationals using our roads, yet the government’s response has been largely restricted to giving out brochures and stickers telling foreigners to drive safely.”

“The fact is, simple changes to the way vehicles are rented to tourists, together with changes to the roads, could dramatically reduce the number of accidents involving tourists.”

“The fact that government continues to sit on its hands over these tragedies suggests they’re more worried about pissing off the tourism operators than they are about saving lives.”

Matthew-Wilson recently released a position paper titled: Driven to distraction: a submission on reducing tourist accidents, which called for drastic changes to the way vehicles are rented out to foreign drivers.

These include banning the rental of vehicles to drivers who have arrived in the country within 24 hours, making recently-arrived travellers pass a test to prove they’re safe behind the wheel and changing the road conditions to make accidents less likely.

Under Matthew-Wilson’s proposed changes, rental companies could be prosecuted if they rented a vehicle to a person who was incapable of driving it safely.

Matthew-Wilson adds:

“Tourists can currently rent a vehicle at the airport after an 18-hour flight. This is crazy. It is now universally accepted that driving while tired is as dangerous as driving while drunk.”

Matthew-Wilson also wants all recent arrivals in this country to pass an interactive driving test before renting a vehicle. He does not believe such a test would breach New Zealand’s obligations under the International Driver’s License treaty, because it would apply to all drivers – including locals returning home from a long flight.

Matthew-Wilson adds: “There is already an online test available, but it’s optional, and I doubt it will really separate those who really should and shouldn’t be using our roads.”

Matthew-Wilson wants rumble strips installed before major intersections to warn drivers as they approach, together with multilingual signage on high risk roads and especially at intersections, to warn drivers which side of the road they should be on, and which way they should look.

“A significant number of tourists are from countries where motorists drive on the other side of the road. When tourists from these countries are tired or scared, they tend to veer onto the wrong side of the road. Also, when these tourists are coming up to major intersections, they often look the wrong way, which can have fatal consequences.”