How many tourists are driving on fake licenses?

A prominent road safety campaigner has suggested that many tourists from China and India may not have valid licences when they drive in New Zealand.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website, says there is clear evidence of widespread forgery of licences from India and China.

“There is currently a global epidemic of fake licences originating from China, but even the official licences may not be what they seem.”

A Chinese source told

“In [the] big cities, the drive test rules are strict, but in other places it's relatively easy to pass the test. Also, some people buy licences without formal training and without [passing a] driving test at all. They give bribery money to the police; the police will issue them licences under the counter. That's illegal, of course, but not many corrupt guys are caught. Some people who buy licences are illiterate and don't know and don't care about traffic rules at all, but they drive aggressively and roughly.”

There is also widespread corruption in the Indian driver’s licence system, even though the Indian driving test is still one of the easiest in the world. Only since last year has there been a legal requirement for the driving licence testing officer to actually sit in the vehicle during the driving test.

However, in an older BBC reconstruction of an earlier official Indian driving test, it was suggested that many Indian drivers may not have even passed any test at all, but have simply purchased a licence from a corrupt driving school.

Some licences are simply forgeries. In 2012, India Today reported that:

“Around half of the candidates, who were shortlisted by the Delhi police for the post of drivers in the year 2011, produced fake driving licences.”

Matthew-Wilson says the high number of incidents involving drivers from India and China requires firm action from the government.

“New Zealand is legally required to accept legitimate licences from many countries. We are not obliged to accept fakes.”

Matthew-Wilson believes all drivers – including New Zealanders – should have to pass a simple, computer-based competency test before being allowed to rent vehicles in this country.

“The rental industry needs to weed out the bad drivers and unsafe vehicles. The government needs to fix up our arterial rural roads, so simple mistakes don't turn into fatalities. Until these problems are addressed, there will be no real change to the ongoing stream of serious accidents involving tourists. Tourist accidents are a small part of the road toll, but that’s no comfort to the families of those who have died unnecessarily.”