Many tourist car accidents preventable, says safety campaigner

Simple steps could dramatically reduce the number of accidents involving tourists, says the car review website A position paper titled: Driven to distraction: a submission on reducing tourist accidents, written by Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, calls 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, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says: “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 effectively 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 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.”

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