Road safety campaigner blasts NZ government’s ‘culture of silence’ regarding accidents involving foreign drivers

An outspoken road safety campaigner has blasted the New Zealand government’s ‘culture of silence’ regarding accidents involving foreign drivers.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website, says:

“Democracies work best when vital information is freely available. But where accidents involving foreign drivers are concerned, we face a near blackout of important information from the police and the government.”

“Were seatbelts used during recent bus crashes? No one is saying. How much training did the drivers in recent crashes have? No one is saying. How much sleep had these drivers had leading up to the various accidents? No one is saying.”

“The attitude of both the government and the police is that accidents involving foreign drivers are not a matter the public should be discussing. The government and the police prefer to leave these matters to the courts, so that the facts, or some of the facts, come out weeks, months or years later.“

“The clear purpose of this near-blackout of important information is to close down or limit public debate about accidents involving foreign drivers.”

“The government also feeds us deceptive statistics. For example, we are told that overseas drivers are involved in just 6% of fatal or serious injury crashes on New Zealand roads.”

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

“The government knows that many foreign drivers are not safe driving here: 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.”

“Yet the government simply turns a blind eye to all this and the police help the government limit public debate. This is shameful.”

Matthew-Wilson’s report on tourist accidents recommends a basic competency test for anyone renting a vehicle and also calls for a compulsory stand-down of 24 hours before travellers from overseas are allowed to drive in this country.