Tourist driving needs review, say victims' families

Last updated 05:00 03/06/2014
Abi and Ella
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TRAGIC LOSS: Abigail "Abi" Ann Hone (left) and Ella Yasmin Summerfield, both aged 12, died in a crash in Rakaia.
Abi Hone
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TRAGEDY: Abi Hone, 12.

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Authorities need to reconsider the rules allowing overseas tourists to drive on the country's roads, a spokesman for the family of Abi Hone says.

Debate about the driving rights of overseas visitors was reignited after the deaths of 12-year-old Abigail "Abi" Ann Hone, best friend Ella Yasmin Summerfield, also 12, and Ella's mother, Sally Vanessa Summerfield, 49, when a Dutch tourist allegedly failed to stop and crashed into the side of their vehicle near Rakaia on Saturday.

Shane Summerfield, 48, who was driving, remained in a serious but stable condition in Christchurch Hospital yesterday. He was being supported by his surviving son and extended family.

The 52-year-old Dutch tourist was to appear in the Christchurch District Court today on three charges of careless driving causing death and one charge of careless driving causing injury.

Sumner local Darren Wright, acting as spokesman for the Hone family, said the crash was devastating for the three families involved and their communities.

Wright said it was time for a discussion about the rules allowing foreign drivers on NZ roads.

On Friday night, Aucklander Robyn Eilleen Derrick, 52, was killed in the Coromandel when a campervan driven by a tourist allegedly crossed the centreline and hit her 4WD. After that crash, Thames-Coromandel deputy mayor Peter French said more needed to be done to educate overseas drivers about our roads.

Overseas visitors can drive in New Zealand with an international licence, or a country-of-origin licence, if their country is a signatory to a UN convention guaranteeing driving rights.

Police assistant commissioner Dave Cliff said there would be penalties for Kiwis wanting to drive overseas if New Zealand were to step away from that agreement.

NZ Transport Agency figures show the proportion of fatal crashes involving drivers with an overseas licence had risen from 0.3 per cent in 1998 to 6.4 per cent last year.

Cliff said it was hard to compare the figures with overseas data because NZ had a higher number of self-driving tourists.

Canterbury boy Sean Roberts started a petition calling for tourists to pass a test before driving in New Zealand after his father, Grant, was killed by a foreign driver in 2012. More than 17,500 people had signed the petition as of yesterday.

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However, Prime Minister John Key said no changes were needed. He said yesterday the accident rate per capita was about the same for New Zealand drivers and those from overseas, "so I don't think that's a big issue". The Government preferred to work with rental car companies and airlines to improve driver education.

Road safety campaigner and car reviewer Clive Matthew-Wilson said overseas visitors should be banned from renting cars until they passed an online driving test.

As of 8pm yesterday, the Queen's Birthday holiday road toll stood at five. Four of those killed were involved in crashes with foreign drivers.

- The Dominion Post

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