Jet-lagged tourist drivers 'lethal'

The Chinese consulate in Christchurch has sparked a feisty debate about tourist drivers on our roads by demanding that New Zealand does more to enhance the safety of Chinese nationals.

The consulate's call has provoked a spectrum of suggestions, from the barking mad bigots who want all Chinese visitors frog-marched onto sightseeing buses, to the highly strung handwringers who want blanket visitor driver testing.

If you are only visiting New Zealand for a week or so, would this seriously be practical? And just who would be forced to sit a test? Would we racially profile the rental car crowd to root out Chinese, Indian and Korean tourists, or would such a test apply across the board, to include Australians, Americans and Brits?

No matter what testing regime we forced visitors to undertake, they only have to take one look at a random swatch of Kiwi drivers to conclude that New Zealand's road rules are entirely optional. As is the case for Kiwis driving in most countries overseas, visitors to New Zealand are allowed to drive on their nation-of-origin licence for up to 12 months.

I have driven in several countries - and not once have I been subject to any form of visitor test that assesses my driving competence or knowledge of the road rules.

If I had to sit a quick-fire theory test, fine, but does New Zealand really want to unleash a tit-for-tat testing war?

Before my first driving experience in the United States, I was anxious about how I would cope driving on the right-hand side of Uncle Sam's roads. I was staggered how fast and easily I adapted.

The key was getting a good night's sleep, post-flight, before going anywhere near a steering wheel.

Nowhere could that advice be more relevant than at Christchurch Airport and Auckland Airport, as jet-lagged passengers pour off long-haul flights, late at night or at first light, and head straight to a rental car desk, before waywardly driving for hours in a brain-fried stupor.

Such lethal and lunatic behaviour needs to be vigorously discouraged.

But, as for lifting our game to please the Chinese consulate, I have an idea.

Tourism New Zealand and our innovative national carrier, Air New Zealand, should join forces to commission and create an interactive road rules refresher game that passengers can view, in their respective language, via the on-demand in-flight entertainment system.

Just imagine if the animation magic and high-tech wizardry of Taylormade Productions was deployed to the project. It could fast become compulsive entertainment viewing on a New Zealand-bound flight.

And we might even learn something.

The Press