Alpine road drivers concern police

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014

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Foreign drivers with no experience of alpine conditions are being kept under close watch by Queenstown police as a cold snap brings more snow to Southern Lakes ski fields.

Sergeant Kate Pirovano said there had been several instances of tourist drivers swinging wide over the centre line on the Crown Range, which was alarming for other drivers.

"We had one Australian from the Gold Coast who believed it was safe to swing right on to the other side of the road because he was unused to alpine roads or ice," she said.

"I got a call about his driving, encountered him as he was coming down the range, and turned around to follow him, and even with me behind him, he was getting well over the centre line.

He said he was used to the big wide roads and sunshine back home, and believed it was safe to be on the other side of the road if that side was clear of traffic.

New Zealand road rules were explained to the driver, and he was warned to stay left at all times.

Reports of other motorists doing the same has led Queenstown police to increase patrols on the Crown Range road, which leads to Wanaka and the popular Cardrona ski area.

"We were getting a lot of calls from concerned motorists, so we've upped patrols.

"Many of the drivers we're getting called about have no experience with ice, black ice, gravel, or using alpine routes, so we're there for driver education, but also to check for drink-driving or disqualified drivers, making sure vehicles are up to scratch with registrations and warrants."

Police were also warning New Zealand drivers heading to the mountains to get enough sleep, after a snow fan from Waimate fell asleep in his car on a Queenstown service station forecourt at 5pm on Friday.

"It looked like he must have left early, got a day on the mountain in, then been really tired afterwards," Pirovano said.

Fresh snow was falling on the Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona from late morning yesterday. The MetService predicted snow would fall on the Crown Range down to 500 metres.

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- The Southland Times

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