Tourist rental guidelines a joke, says safety campaigner

New guidelines for renting vehicles to tourists will do little to reduce the number of accidents involving foreign drivers, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says the guidelines – which are voluntary – won’t stop dangerous drivers renting cars.

“These guidelines are a joke. Don’t know which side of the road to drive on? No problem. Don’t know what the yellow lines down the middle of the road mean? No problem. So tired you can’t keep your eyes open? No problem. Did you buy your driver’s licence over the internet? No problem: the Tourism Industry Association will give you links to road safety videos and travel distance calculators.”

Matthew-Wilson believes there needs to be a clear ban on tourists driving vehicles for 24 hours after they arrive.

“Driving tired is as dangerous as driving drunk. Rental car firms would not be allowed to rent a car to a drunk driver, but are allowed to rent a car to a traveller who’s liable to fall asleep and kill someone. This is just wrong.”

On Tuesday, Hong Kong national Shu Na Lo, 27, was sentenced after falling asleep behind the wheel of a rental car he had hired directly after arriving from a flight from Melbourne on September 30. The accident killed his mother and seriously injured his sister.

Matthew-Wilson also slammed the rental car industry for renting vehicles which lack modern safety features.

“Last week’s multiple fatality near Reporoa and the fatal accident near Turangi in May 2012, both involved vans lacking Electronic Stability Control. Electronic Stability Control reduces your chances of a fatal collision by up to 56%. So why is stability control missing on so many rental vehicles, and why does the government allow this?"

Matthew-Wilson also believes all drivers – including New Zealanders – should pass a simple, computer-based competency test before being allowed to rent vehicles.

“The rental industry needs to weed out the bad drivers and unsafe vehicles. The government needs to fix up our rural roads, so simple mistakes don't turn into fatalities. Until these problems are fixed, there will be no real change to the ongoing stream of serious accidents involving tourists. Tourist accidents are a small part of the road toll, but that’s no comfort to the families of those who have died unnecessarily.”

At least seven serious and fatal crashes involving tourists driving rental cars and campervans have been recorded this year.