Call to keep jet-lagged tourists off road

Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014
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A stand-down period for tourists between getting off long-haul flights and hiring rental cars would be difficult to police, industry experts say.

The suggestion was made this week following reports that crashes and driving complaints in the Mackenzie District relate mainly to tourists driving with international licences.

Senior Constable Brent Swanson, of Lake Tekapo Police, said many crashes that happen in the area involve tourists who have got off international flights and are making their way south to places like Queenstown.

Anecdotally, a lot of those crashes tended to be in the middle of the afternoon, he said.

However, a stand-down period would be difficult to enforce.

"Some people might be flying business class and get up and they are fine," he said.

Mr Swanson suggests tourists plan ahead. He said regular breaks from driving were important, and when possible tourists should plan a day somewhere like Christchurch first before setting off on a long distance drive.

Constable Joe Rush, of Twizel Police, agreed with that suggestion.

"People have these massive long-haul flights and then they jump in a car and drive."

South Canterbury road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said a range of initiatives had been discussed in a bid to combat the problem.

Canterbury-wide road safety co-ordinators suggested an in-flight road safety briefing be aired before landing.

Land Transport New Zealand pitched the idea to Air New Zealand, which has agreed to show the Chinese language video on its flights from Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Road safety co-ordinators work with rental car companies, providing them with information, including warnings to pass on to their customers.

"I don't think [the tourists] take those warnings seriously. I think they think it's all okay - they can handle it, until they get into trouble," Mr Naude said.

"Obviously, this is a very serious issue.

"Yes, we would like to see a stand-down period, if people have to travel a [long] distance."

"But, it's a really difficult area to control [because] we don't have the access [to tourists] before they travel. It comes down to the individual - it's their choice."


A Canterbury-based app developer has taken on the challenge of teaching tourists how to abide by New Zealand road rules.

The team behind CamperMate, an app for independent travellers, has launched a video about driving in New Zealand. The initiative aims to reduce the number of crashes involving tourists, through education about road rules and signs.

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According to CamperMate founder Adam Hutchinson, there has been a "steady" increase in fatal crashes involving drivers with overseas licences.

In some areas, such as Te Anau, 79 per cent of crashes have involved tourists.

Overseas drivers were responsible for almost one third of crashes in the Mackenzie District last year.

The seven-minute video was filmed throughout New Zealand using a camera mounted to the windscreen of a car, putting the viewer ‘in the driver's seat' from the comfort of their PC.

The video is also available in Chinese and can be viewed by visiting


Frightening examples of driving by tourists have been highlighted by a regular Mackenzie motorist.

Gavin Marriott, who often drives between Christchurch and Fairlie, has intervened at least three times when witnessing the behaviour of overseas drivers.

He approached the Herald yesterday after reading of others' concerns about the number of crashes and near misses involving tourists.

"I travel frequently between Christchurch and Fairlie and have seen some really frightening driving of rental cars, particularly on the Geraldine-Fairlie stretch, where they [come across] their first hills and windy roads."

In one example Mr Marriott was following a car travelling on the right-hand side of the road.

"I undertook them, crossed over to the right, flashed my brakes and hazard lights, and directed them back to the left. However, they continued to cross back to the right [and] avoided an oncoming car, so I pulled them over, but they couldn't speak English - I had to let them continue."

On another occasion, Mr Marriott witnessed a rental car driver stopping each time a campervan came towards the vehicle.

Mr Marriott said the driver was "literally" bouncing off the cliff faces. The driver was also swerving across the road at fluctuating speeds between "stop" and 50kmh.

"There was a massive queue building up and I was immediately behind. I turned on my hazard lights. He, without warning, drove into the lookout bay where I and other motorists questioned him."

The driver could not speak English and had no licence, Mr Marriott said.

"I rang the rental company who refused to speak to me, so we threatened to impound their car."

Mr Marriott said the rental car representative said a woman with a licence had hired the car, but there were only two males in it at the time of the incident. A member of the public drove the car to Fairlie. However, on police advice they had to let the motorist go.

In another incident, Mr Marriott followed a rental car between Geraldine and Fairlie in the dark, without its headlights on.

"Despite constant flashing at them, overtaking and pulling them over, they would not open their window to talk."

Mr Marriott said the occupants eventually confirmed they could not find the switch to turn the lights on, but refused to let him help find it.

"... so I followed them [as they drove] erratically in the dark all the way to Fairlie, where they didn't stop ..."


Do you have examples of horror driving on our roads, and did they involve tourists? Email or phone her on (03) 687-1303. 

- The Timaru Herald


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