South Canterbury toilets provide road safety messages for foreign drivers

A South Canterbury public toilet with one of the region's new road crash maps with messages for tourists
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A South Canterbury public toilet with one of the region's new road crash maps with messages for tourists

South Canterbury's public toilets have become a novel location for pitching road safety messages to tourist drivers.

Maps in public toilets showing crash sites over the past five years are giving safety warnings in Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Filipino. 

The maps, placed above urinals and on the inside of toilet doors, also link readers to websites with road safety messages in 14 languages.

Tourists are being given the safety warnings and driver tips at 60 men and women's toilets around South Canterbury.

South Canterbury road crashes from 2011 to 2015, as displayed on maps in toilets around the region.
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South Canterbury road crashes from 2011 to 2015, as displayed on maps in toilets around the region.

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South Canterbury Road Safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said the signs were mostly aimed at foreign tourists, and toilets provided a captive audience.

It was difficult to get people to read road safety information, but he realised signs in toilets could make for good reading for "30 seconds when there's nothing to do".

Daniel Naude has been using signs in public toilets to warn tourists about the risks of driving in New Zealand.
SUPPLIED

Daniel Naude has been using signs in public toilets to warn tourists about the risks of driving in New Zealand.

NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) statistics showed 625 injury crashes were reported in South Canterbury from 2011 to 2015. Just over 50 – or 8 per cent – involved overseas drivers.

From nearly 2000 injury or non-injury crashes in that time, 28 per cent involved losing control or head-ons at a bend, 27 per cent were rear ends or obstruction. Eighteen per cent were head-ons or losing control on a straight road and 17 per cent involved crossing or turning.

Naude said tourists were especially vulnerable if they thought New Zealand roads were quick and easy. A drive from Christchurch to Queenstown might look like five hours on a map, but the AA website estimated that it would take five hours and 41 minutes from central Christchurch, without a stop, for the 510km trip.

The toilet map sites included Geraldine, Fairlie, Tekapo, Twizeland Mt Cook.

Naude was negotiating with Department of Conservation for more maps around Mt Cook, and had heard from a Queenstown business group interested in the idea. He hoped NZTA's crash statistics for last Christmas, expected to be available by March, would show the signs had made a difference. 

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Highlighting road crashes was not popular, but the public response had mostly been positive, Naude said. 

In a bizarre tribute, someone had stolen one of the signs from a toilet at Tekapo. "I don't know . . . maybe they liked the frame or something."

The maps cost South Canterbury's three district councils just a few thousand dollars and were based on NZTA's national crash statistics from June 2010 to June 2015. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council transport manager Denis Mander said he had seen one of the maps at a toilet at Pukaki and thought the idea was "brilliant".

The council was working with NZTA on road safety programmes for tourists in Otago and Southland, including information for hotel guides.

The material would include estimated journey times, especially for busy routes like Queenstown to Milford Sound, which tourists mistakenly thought was a fast drive.

NZTA, tourism operators and southern councils were also putting safety messages on the back of buses and in rental car handouts, and more rumble strips were being added to roads.

NZTA road safety staff in Christchurch were not immediately aware of the map rollout.

 - Stuff

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