South Island police target tourist drivers

CATE BROUGHTON
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014

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South Island police are working with rental car companies to take incompetent tourist drivers off the road.

Senior Sergeant Al Stewart said Canterbury officers were advising rental car companies to cancel a client's contract if they believed the driver was incompetent, and posed a threat to other road users.

"If we come across a visiting driver who we think shouldn't be driving because they are not skilled enough or we've had public complaints about their driving... we are contacting the rental car company and saying our view is they shouldn't be driving."

Renewed efforts to increase promotion of safe driving to tourists follows the recent fatal accident involving Dutch national Johannes Appelman in May.

Appelman failed to stop at an intersection near Rakaia, killing Sumner mother Sally Rumble, 49, also known as Sally Summerfield, her daughter Ella Summerfield, 12, and Ella's friend Abigail "Abi" Hone, 12.

Previously, police have used the Land Transport Act to prevent incompetent overseas visitors from driving, but stopped using the act on legal advice.

The only way for police to take a driver off the road is to arrest them for a driving offence or imposing bail conditions.  

National Manager of Road Policing Carey Griffiths said the Land Transport Act empowered police to forbid someone from driving if they deemed them to be physically or mentally impaired.

Whether the Act could be used to remove incompetent tourist drivers from the road was less clear.

''It's a situation that is somewhat grey.''

Queenstown police are using the same approach as the Canterbury colleagues.

Sergeant Keith Newell said Queenstown police would phone the rental outlet to ask them to cancel the client's contract if they deemed a tourist driver to be unsafe, The Otago Daily Times reported.

Newell said it was up to the rental company to terminate the contract, but if they did, police would take the keys to the vehicle.

Police used the arrangement to stop a tourist driving on Saturday after complaints from other motorists, the ODT reported.

Police were also helping rental car companies educate visiting drivers about the particular risks on New Zealand roads, Stewart said.

In Christchurch, police have started operating a booze bus-type checkpoint targeting rental car customers from overseas at Christchurch Airport.

Sergeant John Harris said the checkpoints were set up at times when international flights arrived.

His staff would approach rental car users and check on their understanding of New Zealand road rules, and that they had reasonable expectations for their journey.

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