Government should promote alternatives to self-drive holidays, says safety campaigner

A prominent road safety campaigner has called on the New Zealand government to stop promoting self-drive holidays to foreign tourists, and instead to promote less risky alternatives.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website, says many tourists simply lack the skills to drive safely on New Zealand roads.

The Coroner's findings into the deaths of three Hong Kong nationals, released on Wednesday, found: "There was no evidence that [the driver] Allan Chan had experience in a rural, open speed limit environment"[1].

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

“This was not a one-off accident. 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.”

“The New Zealand government is encouraging tourists to rent cars here, even though it is clear many of these tourists are not capable of driving safely when they arrive.”

“Tourists are being misled into thinking New Zealand is a safe destination, even though many of these tourists will be risking their lives when they get here, due to exhaustion, a lack of driving skill and winding, narrow roads round key tourist hotspots.”

“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. The only ethical response is for the government to stop promoting self-drive holidays and also to pressure the tourism industry to do the same.”

Matthew-Wilson adds that many tourists drive because of a perceived lack of suitable alternatives[2].

“The crisis over tourist accidents offers an unprecedented commercial opportunity to provide tourists with pleasant alternatives to driving, including:

● setting up networks of reliable commercial drivers, who would be available to chauffeur tourists in cars, people-movers and minibuses. This would give tourists the same freedom as if they were driving themselves, but without the stress and danger of navigating unfamiliar New Zealand roads.

● enhancing scheduled bus and coach operations to create better options for personal itinerary planning.

● wider use of railway networks during the tourist season, to provide greater options than the current one-per-day trips."


[1] Tourist driver killed himself, wife and friend after 'disturbing' driving witnessed, Stuff, 16 December 2015.

[2] Road kill - Must something be done about foreign drivers? Stuff, 28 February 2015.