Irresponsible rental companies should share responsibility for tourist accidents

The government should apply tough new standards to vehicle rentals, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, was commenting after the latest serious head-on collision involving a tourist driver.

On Tuesday night, three Asian women heading to the Coromandel on holiday were seriously injured in a head on collision. Their rental van crossed the centre line into the path of an oncoming vehicle. They had flown into New Zealand earlier that day. 

Matthew-Wilson says it’s far too easy for tired drivers to rent cars.

“Anyone with an international driver’s licence can walk straight from the plane and hire a 4.5 tonne camper van. This is just mad. Quite clearly, many foreign drivers are tired, confused and simply unable to control a vehicle of this size, or even stay on the correct side of the road.”

“There needs to be complete change to the way that vehicles are rented, so that the liability for preventable accidents is shared between the driver and the company that rented the vehicle.”

“The law should state that the rental company must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any person hiring a vehicle is capable of operating it safely. If not, the company hiring the vehicle could face prosecution.”

Matthew-Wilson has repeatedly called for foreign drivers to face a compulsory stand-down period of 24 hours after arriving before they are allowed to rent a vehicle.

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?”

Matthew-Wilson’s 14,000 word report on tourist accidents: Driven to Distraction, also called for all drivers, including New Zealanders, to be required 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 prospective 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 is also urging the government to speed up the installation of median barriers on high risk roads.

 “Many of the worst accidents involve head-on collisions that would not have occurred on a properly built road. Many of New Zealand’s roads are like a staircase without a handrail: you make a mistake, you’re going to get hurt.”