Call for 2-hour stand-down to cut crashes

Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014

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Half of South Canterbury's car crashes could be prevented if visitors were not allowed to hire vehicles immediately after a long-haul flight, an ambulance driver says.

Lyn Dobson, a volunteer ambulance officer in Fairlie, believes fatigue is a major problem on the district's roads, particularly among tourists.

"Jet lag sets in after two hours. Two hours from Christchurch and you're in the Mackenzie Country. A simple stand-down of two hours . . . could reduce our road accidents. The majority of vehicle crashes in the Mackenzie region are tourists that are unfamiliar with our roads and have left Christchurch with a rental [car] after an international flight."

There have been a series of crashes in the district in recent months, many involving tourists who are unfamiliar with the area, said Senior Constable Les Andrew, of Twizel.

Rental Vehicle Association New Zealand chief executive Barry Kidd said although it was an issue, he did not believe a two-hour stand-down was the answer.

It would be difficult to justify saying someone was not fit to drive and to enforce such a rule.

"It would seem unreasonable for a rental car firm to say [a customer] needs to stand down before they can drive; and possibly rental car firms aren't the people to make that judgment.

"I understand the frustration that could possibly be avoided. It's a real issue we need to focus on, but it is quite complex."

Initiatives were in place among rental companies to ensure safety, but imposing a stand-down was not an option being considered.

Visitors are instead given brochures detailing how New Zealand roads differ from those in their home countries, possible things they will encounter including hazards, and driving law details.

Companies provide those details in several languages.

Kidd said car crashes were not a representation of most people's experience.

"There are thousands of rental vehicles rented throughout New Zealand [with New Zealand and overseas licences]," he said, with most renters driving around New Zealand, having a good time and returning their vehicles without incident.

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- The Timaru Herald

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