Politicians 'cowards' over foreign driver testing

Tourist dollars are more important to the New Zealand government than road safety, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, was commenting after Southland coroner David Robinson questioned the standard of assessment for foreign drivers.

Matthew-Wilson says: 

“The government knows many foreign drivers are not safe on our roads: a study of 226 foreign drivers in Queenstown last year showed that just 3% could pass a New Zealand theory test while 15% admitted they weren't sure they could drive safely on New Zealand roads.”

Matthew-Wilson says it’s nonsense for the government to claim that testing drivers before they rent a car would breach our international treaty obligations.

"It should be compulsory for rental car companies to do a basic competency test on everyone before they rent a car, including local drivers."

“A simple, sixty-second computerised eye-hand coordination test would quickly expose those who were too tired, too blotto or too messy to drive. It’s no different from a cop asking a suspected drunk driver to walk in a straight line. It doesn’t discriminate against foreign drivers and it’s a test everyone should pass before they rent a vehicle."

Matthew-Wilson also claims the government feeds the public deceptive statistics regarding accidents involving foreign drivers. 

“We are told that overseas drivers are involved in just 6% of fatal or serious injury crashes on New Zealand roads. In doesn’t sound very serious, does it?”

“However, pre-Covid Ministry of Transport figures showed that, in major tourist districts such as Westland, Queenstown-Lakes and Southland, overseas drivers were involved in between 21–40% of all crashes.” 

Matthew-Wilson says the problem is not restricted to drivers from any particular country.

“Some drivers would fail a competency test because they were simply tired and needed a good night's sleep. Some would be basically good drivers who needed some retraining on certain issues, such as which side of the road to drive on. Some drivers simply lack either the awareness or skills to drive safely in this country."

"No matter how often the government claims we can't test drivers before they rent vehicles, ordinary Kiwis know otherwise. It’s not rocket science. The politicians are simply cowards."

Matthew-Wilson also wants restrictions on any driver, including returning Kiwis, renting vehicles within 24 hours of arriving from overseas. 

“A tired driver can be as much of a menace as a drunk driver, yet during the last fifty years, the government has allowed virtually anyone to simply fly into New Zealand, rent a car and drive off. This is madness."

“The current Covid border restrictions won’t be there forever; the tourists will return, so, for sure, the tourist accidents will begin again."

"The government first has to stop tired drivers getting behind the wheel. Then it needs to weed out the drivers who don't know which side to drive on. Finally, the government needs to stop incompetent or reckless motorists from ever driving in this country."

"Until these steps are taken, these terrible accidents will keep occurring.”


Matthew-Wilson’s report on tourist accidents 


• Clive Matthew-Wilson has been actively campaigning on road safety issues for 25 years. Mentored by engineer Chris Coxon (former technical chair and founding member of the Australian New Car Assessment Program – ANCAP), Matthew-Wilson was the first person to publish crash test results in New Zealand. His research into seatbelt upgrades was awarded by the Australian Police Journal. Matthew-Wilson is a strong supporter of pedestrians’ and cyclists’ rights and has helped shape many major road safety policies in New Zealand.

Clive Matthew-Wilson is equally distrustful of all politicians. He is not affiliated with the Taxpayers’ Union nor any similar body.


Suggested reading:

• Why fines and the threat of disqualification don’t work for the highest risk drivers.

• Why asking people to drive safely is an expensive waste of time.

• Why advanced driver and rider training has no effect on the road toll.

(The second and third link are the same document).