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An Indian tourist reported for driving in the incorrect lane at least four times in an afternoon told the Queenstown District Court he did not know what the centre lines on the road were for.
Vinod Deviprasad Singh, 48, property developer, was fined $400 and disqualified from driving for six months when he appeared before Judge Michael Turner yesterday for dangerous driving on Monday.
Singh, through the help of his friend in court, told the judge he was not advised of the New Zealand road rules when he was given the keys to his rental car at Apex Car Rentals and did not understand what the coloured lines on the road meant.
In India, drivers were allowed to cross the centre line if there were no cars on the opposite side of the road and in most areas there was a small concrete wall in the centre of the road, he said.
Several members of the public called police about Singh's driving between Beaumont and Queenstown after he was seen crossing the centre line, passing cars on double yellow lines and found fully in the opposite lane on blind corners at least four times.
At least two drivers had to take evasive action to avoid crashing.
More members of the public called police when they saw Singh pull out in front of a car at the Roaring Meg in the Kawarau Gorge and drive erratically without headlights on at dusk.
When police found Singh, who was travelling with his wife and two daughters, he admitted driving over the centre line, saying the "corners were too sharp".
The judge said tourists would continue to offend in this way until changes were made by rental car companies, which hired cars to tourists with no knowledge of the road rules, road signs, New Zealand's driving culture and the state of New Zealand's roads.
The offending was particularly common in the lower South Island, he said.
Singh had hoped the judge would let him carry on driving until his holiday, with a party of seven others, in New Zealand finished this week.
However, the judge disqualified Singh from driving immediately and ordered the fine to be paid before he left the country.
After the sentencing, Apex Christchurch manager Tony Quinlivan said Singh was given the appropriate information and would have been provided with a folder that explained the road rules when he completed the paperwork to rent the car.
A "What's different about driving in New Zealand" flier was given out, which explains the keep left rule, speed limits, give way rules and overtaking rules.
Quinlivan said customers could take a road rule test online but it was not compulsory.
He said the company had attended a workshop in Queenstown with representatives from police, the NZ Transport Agency and other rental companies to "discuss a way forward" and make the roads safer for users.
- The Southland Times