Tourist drivers need educating - officer
Police are in the thick of the tourist season in Te Anau, but despite their persistent efforts are still seeing foreigners reach speeds of up to 156 kilometres an hour.
Constable Dwight Grieve, of highway patrol, has worked through the holiday period, ticketing motorists from Kingston to Milford.
He has been busy handing out speeding fines, checking seatbelts and even removing some tourists' licences.
There were three to six patrol cars on the road between Kingston and Milford each day, Mr Grieve said.
Early in December he removed 10 licences from tourists in just 13 days, he said.
Just last week, in one shift, he handed out 40 tickets on the Milford Road.
"It takes about 15 minutes to give out a ticket, and it was only a 10 hours shift, you do the maths."
The situation has not got any better since then, he said.
Some nationalities were unaware of the speed restrictions in New Zealand, were not used to wearing seatbelts and had no idea about the conditions of New Zealand roads, he said.
It was those factors that were a worry to police.
"We are well over an hour's straight drive to any medical centre, and probably two hours for an ambulance by the time they get the callout."
Mr Grieve said 79 per cent of crashes in the Te Anau area involved tourists, and they were trying to reduce that percentage.
Help from the public saw police receive up to 12 complaints a day about driving in the area, he said.
"I would say the complaints are more this year but the traffic flow may have actually decreased."
There was still some shocking displays of driving, he said.
"Education is definitely the way forward."
Every crash is preventable, but people needed to be informed, educated and spoken to, to ensure they understand our roads, he said.
Often he is forced to communicate with tourists using sign language, as with no cellphone reception on the Milford Road he could not ring a translator.
"Once somebody has been spoken to and educated, they very rarely are heard from again."
When Mr Grieve has had to remove licences from tourists, he went beyond his call of duty to wave down buses to get them to Queenstown, or takes them to accommodation in Te Anau and advises them on other modes of transport in the area.
"It's really quite sad, because they are really good people. We want them to enjoy the area, safely."
The Southland Times