Time to restrict tourist car rentals, but govt terrified of offending China — safety campaigner
Many tourists are not capable of driving safely on our roads, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.
Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says: “Many overseas tourists using international driver’s licenses end up killing innocent people in road crashes. Under our treaty obligations, the government can’t stop most international drivers using our roads. However, the government needs to make it much harder to get behind the wheel of a rental car in this country.”
But Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key says there's no need to toughen up rental car rules for tourists despite two fatal crashes over the holiday weekend involving foreigners.
Four people have been killed over the Queen's Birthday weekend in two separate fatal car accidents involving foreign tourists.
One was driving a campervan that allegedly crossed the centreline and killed an Auckland woman in the Coromandel; the other a driver who allegedly ran a stop sign in Canterbury, killing a Sumner woman, her daughter and her daughter's friend.
Should pass online test first
Mr Matthew-Wilson believes the government should ban overseas travellers from renting cars until they have first passed an online driving test.
“There is already an online test available, but it’s optional, and I doubt it will really separate those who should and shouldn’t be using our roads.”
He adds, “Tourists can rent a vehicle at the airport after a twelve hour flight. This is crazy. No one can drive safely after a twelve hour flight from a different time zone.”
The motoring editor believes intersections on major roads should have multi-language signs saying something like: “Keep left — look right.”
Scared of offending China
Mr Matthew-Wilson claims the government is scared of taking decisive action on the issue.
“Pro-business governments tend to be very reluctant to take any steps that will restrict the rights of businesses such as car rental firms," The dogandlemon.com editor says.
"Also, the government is terrified of offending countries like China. The end result of the government’s inaction is a large number of unnecessary road deaths.”
Accident rate consistent with locals — PM
Speaking from Samoa, where he is on an official visit, Mr Key told media, "If you look at the accident rate of tourists who come and drive in New Zealand versus New Zealanders themselves, it's pretty consistent. They're about the same accident rate per capita. So I don't think that's a big issue."
There were a number of working groups looking at the issue.
"Increasingly, the rental car companies and also some airlines are playing proactive role in trying to improve driver education and I think there will be a couple of groups established to ensure we're doing everything we can," Mr Key said.
"We do need to recognise that some of our roads are quite difficult terrain for people who may be inexperienced drivers. Lindis Pass in the middle of winter, that's tough terrain for any driver, let alone someone who might not be experienced driving in those conditions."
Mr Matthew-Wilson is not impressed by the PM's comeback.
"The Prime Minister is in a deliberate state of denial," he tells NBR.
"Around Queenstown and Southland, tourists make up a quarter of the road toll and John Key says there's not a problem."
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