Government inaction drives tourist road toll, says safety campaigner

The government’s strategy for preventing tourist accidents has been a complete failure, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says many tourists simply lack the skills to drive safely on New Zealand roads, yet the government does nothing to stop them from renting cars and crashing.

Matthew-Wilson says unsafe driving by foreign nationals is a daily menace in tourist areas.

“The horrific accident in Arthur's Pass was not a one-off: it was one of a series of accidents involving tourist drivers. While the national figure is quite low, in certain locations, such as Westland, the percentage of accidents involving foreign drivers is around 37%, an alarming figure given the relatively small amount of traffic using those roads.”

On Christmas day, French tourist Remi Morilleau, 37, died near Whangarei after his rental car crossed the centre line and collided with other vehicles. He had arrived in the country only a few hours before. Morilleau’s crash happened just north of where a 64-year-old Englishman, who had also arrived in the country on the same day, died after a similar head-on collision on November 4.

Matthew-Wilson puts the blame for these accidents squarely on the government, and the organisations that support the government’s position.

“It’s totally unacceptable that the government demands high standards of driving from New Zealand drivers, but accepts appallingly low standards of driving from tourists.

“It is also shameful that both the government and the Automobile Association continue to oppose a compulsory 24 hour stand-down period before recently arrived travellers are allowed to rent vehicles. It is equally shameful that there is still no effective check on the competence of foreign drivers before they’re allowed to rent cars in this country.”

“For years, the tourist industry, the government and the AA have been saying we can fix the issue of tourist driving with brochures and website links. The string of accidents involving tourists should make all these groups hang their heads in shame.”