Sons' plea for safer driving

18:46, Mar 12 2014
Sean Roberts
DESPERATE PLEA: Sean Roberts, 9, (right), pictured with his brother Cody, 8, wants to know why tourists are still able to drive in New Zealand without first passing a test. He wants the law changed. Their father, Grant Roberts, was killed by a Chinese tourist in 2012.

South Canterbury nine-year-old Sean Roberts is fighting to have New Zealand law changed, preventing tourists from driving on our roads without passing a driving test.

His motive is to save other families from the anguish he suffered after a tourist crashed into his dad, Grant Roberts, killing him, in November 2012.

The 43-year-old was on his motorbike. He was returning from the Burt Munro Challenge in Invercargill in a convoy of bikes.

They were travelling north when Mr Roberts and Dennis Michael Pederson, 54, of Tauranga, collided with a southbound Nissan vehicle on State Highway 8, in the Lindis Pass. Both men died at the scene.

Chinese student Kejia Zheng, 20, was disqualified from driving for two years and ordered to pay $10,000 in emotional harm payments for causing the death of the two men and injuring two other people in the crash.

Zheng, who had arrived in New Zealand only the day before the crash, hit gravel on the side of the road and over-corrected, causing the crash.


Now Sean is speaking out in the hope some good comes of his dad's death.

"If no-one speaks up heaps of people are just going to keep getting hurt, and no-one deserves to go through that. It's not nice," he said.

Sean, who attends Geraldine Primary School, wrote a letter to a New Zealand current affairs show, aiming it at Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee and the Government departments that could make a difference.

"I want to ask them if they can change the law - to set [up] a test [for tourists before they can] drive on our roads. Otherwise people are just going to keep getting hurt.

"My dream would probably be if the law could be changed - I really want it to, because no-one really deserves to go through what I've been through."

Timaru woman Sandra MacDonald agrees something needs to be done.

"My husband and 11-year-old-daughter paid the ultimate price, their lives, in an accident caused by an overseas tourist," she said.

"This Austrian tourist also killed two other people and injured others in the same crash.

"Our family is left to pick up the pieces of a shattered family."

She wants someone to take responsibility for allowing overseas tourists to drive "so easily" in New Zealand.



The Chinese consulate will produce a skills and tips pamphlet for Chinese citizens to read when they pick up rental cars in Christchurch and tourist hot spots, including Queenstown.

People's Republic of China vice consulate-general in Christchurch Xin Li, who was in Queenstown yesterday, said the brochures would be written in Chinese and circulated at rental car kiosks and airports in time for the Chinese peak travel season of October to February.

Many Chinese were "extremely unfamiliar" with driving styles and conditions in New Zealand and needed the extra guidance to stay safe.

It was hoped the pamphlets would help curb accidents resulting in serious injuries or deaths, Mr Li said.

"The give way rules, intersection rules and always keeping left are things that many Chinese drivers are not completely aware of. Most intersections are controlled by traffic lights in China, so there are some big differences," he said.

"Many Chinese drivers also do not have a good estimation of how long a drive might take. They will just look it up on a GPS and use that for their estimation, when the drive may take a lot longer. Also, they are unaware of different road conditions. When locals are travelling fast, and following close behind them, the brochure will tell them to pull over and let them pass."

Li Xin met Queenstown Lakes District Council councillor Lex Perkins yesterday and would meet with Queenstown police this morning - and he hoped for co-operation from both organisations in helping to make the brochures widely available.

More than 210,000 Chinese travelled to New Zealand in the year to March 2013. About 60 to 70 per cent came to the South Island, Mr Li estimated.

Among those that came south, Queenstown was probably "a must" so it was important to include the resort's council and police in the plan for distributing traffic brochures.

Cr Perkins endorsed the idea, saying any move that bolstered road safety was a move forward.

The vice-consul's pro-active safety stance was sparked by a crash involving Chinese nationals on December 29 on State Highway 94 between Te Anau and Mossburn. A 56-year-old Chinese woman visiting her New Zealand-based daughter was killed in the three-car crash, and two male relatives were taken to hospital.

The Timaru Herald