Tourists feature in speed blitz

Tourists were the main culprits as police handed out 250 tickets along a popular highway during an operation to combat poor driving during the Chinese New Year period.

Constable Blair Dalton said about 250 tickets were issued between Queenstown and Milford Sound during the operation, which ran from Tuesday until 7pm yesterday.

It had been timed to coincide with Chinese New Year, when vehicle numbers between Milford and Te Anau increased by about 550 vehicles a day, he said.

Mr Dalton said most tickets were given out for excessive speed, including five for speeds between 140 and 160kmh.

Those drivers automatically lost their licences for 28 days but would not appear in court.

Other motorists, including passengers on tour buses, were ticketed for not wearing seatbelts, and for passing illegally on double yellow lines.

Most of the offences were committed by tourists less familiar with New Zealand driving rules and conditions, he said.

On Saturday, a French tourist was taken to Southland Hospital after she fell asleep while driving near Te Anau and drove through a ditch into a paddock.

Although she received only minor injuries and had since been released from hospital, it could have been much worse and it was a reminder for all drivers to stay alert, Mr Dalton said.

While many international visitors used the Queenstown-to-Milford route, it was also important for residents and other New Zealand drivers to keep to the speed limit and drive to the conditions, he said.

"It's just a pretty dangerous piece of road with a lot of traffic . . . so the message is really to slow down."

The Southland Times