Suppression of foreign driver accident information unacceptable, says campaigner

The police censorship of information about accidents involving foreigners is unacceptable, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says the revelation that Southern District police officers were discouraged from disclosing the nationality of drivers involved in accidents effectively blocks debate on a major public issue.

“The police have claimed that revealing the nationality of persons involved in an accident might prejudice the public or make tourists a target of public rage. I don’t think this makes sense.”

“If an accident was caused by boy racers, the police would shout loudly about it. The police would not be worried that blaming a boy racer might prejudice the public or make boy racers a target of public rage. Yet, when foreign drivers are involved in accidents, the police use this excuse to deliberately suppress important information.”

“Why the double standard?”

“In the South Island, around one quarter of accidents involve foreign drivers. I expect the government and the tourism industry to try and suppress debate about tourist accidents. I am very disappointed that the police appear to be actively helping them do it.”

Matthew-Wilson has called for urgent debate about the way in which this country is being promoted as a tourist destination.

“The tourism industry has done a great job of attracting millions of visitors to New Zealand. However, no one from the government or tourism industry stopped to think of the impact that mass tourism would have on the local people in places like the South Island. No one stopped to consider the impact of all these self-drive tourists and buses on our roading infrastructure. Yet we need to have this debate, and urgently.”

Matthew-Wilson has repeatedly called for all drivers to pass a sixty second computerised test before they are allowed to rent or buy vehicles in this country.

“Any strategy that encourages foreign nationals to self-drive down New Zealand roads, is going to significantly increase the danger for everyone. Even more disturbingly, many foreign nationals clearly lack the skills to navigate New Zealand roads safely. Yet the government sees no problem with this.”

“You can make a pretty strong case that the real criminals aren’t the tourists who drive down the wrong side of the road; the real criminals are the politicians who let them do it.”


 • Foreign drivers are involved in about 6% of fatal and injury crashes nationally, but the figure is much higher in the South Island. 27% of fatal and injury crashes in Mackenzie, 25% in Queenstown Lakes, 24% in Southland and 16% in Central Otago involve foreign drivers.