Police put focus on tourist drivers

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:01 10/07/2014

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Christchurch police are targeting tourists at airport-based rental companies as part of a national campaign to reduce the number of crashes involving foreign drivers.

After several high-profile fatal crashes involving tourists on New Zealand roads, police have spent the past few weeks talking to tourists at car and campervan rental outlets near Christchurch International Airport and handing out information leaflets about road safety.

Last month, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) figures showed foreign drivers caused more fatal crashes and injuries in the South Island than the national average - and tourist hot spots of Otago and the West Coast fared worst.

A Transport Ministry spokeswoman said the NZTA, police and other agencies had established a "signature road safety project" to focus on overseas drivers, especially in the lower South Island.

The project would look at ways of encouraging tourists to hire the safest rental vehicles they could afford and promoting safe routes and realistic travel itineraries.

It would also consider how to make the roads safer through improved signage and road markings.

The Rental Vehicle Association (RVA) said it was working on operator-led initiatives, while the Government has established a working group to focus on the lower South Island after recent scrutiny of overseas drivers.

James Dalglish, a member of the RVA and general manager for GO Rentals, said the association had been working on initiatives behind the scenes for "a lot longer than this issue has been a hot topic in the press".

Rental operators had a responsibility to put their own tools in place, he said, but the Government needed to be accountable for better signage on troublesome roads and overall road maintenance.

The Queenstown GO Rentals branch manager had been known to drive around the block with tourists and others had been denied rentals, Dalglish said.

"It's not good for us, either, to have our vehicles involved in crashes," he said.

Initiatives being developed by the industry included:

■ A video with information about roads and driving that can be shown to clients when they book.

■ In-vehicle stickers and information booklets.

■ Asking questions during the sign-up process to determine a driver's suitability.

■ An iPad driving test taken in-branch.

South Island manager for A2B Car Rental John Hunter said the company had information on its website about New Zealand's road rules and also about driving conditions.

There was also a link to an online driver's test for tourists. "But we support any initiative that police or the [NZTA] come out with."

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Hunter said police officers had recently been talking to tourists at airport rental companies about road rules and safety.

A petition calling for overseas drivers to be required to pass a test before they can drive on New Zealand roads has been presented to Parliament.

- The Press

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