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Editorial: Trying to do the right thing

Last updated 05:00 31/05/2014

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OPINION: We were taken to task this week over a story headed "Asian tourist drivers prompt complaints".

The letter writer felt the article was racist, and complaints had not actually been lodged with anyone.

And yes, complaints may have been the wrong word. "Concern" might have been better, for that was what prompted the story.

Concern from a Geraldine tow service that happened to have three cars in its yard written off by tourists in the last month. All were Asians and the accidents all close to Geraldine.

A Twizel garage recalled half a dozen cars crashed by tourists since Christmas, most driven by Asians. Tekapo police reported receiving six to 12 complaints of bad driving a week, but these were drivers generally, not necessarily from Asia and not necessarily tourists. He did say though that crossing the centre line was a major issue for tourist drivers.

Why we have made an issue of this topic - we've had a number of stories - is because people die in road accidents, and we don't want that, regardless of who it is.

And while much of the evidence is anecdotal, Asian drivers figure prominently in the stories we are told. And many of the incidents will not come to police attention, and so will not figure in official statistics.

This all becomes more relevant as more Chinese people choose to visit our part of the country, and they are doing so as independent travellers.

And we want them to come, but want them to be safe at the same time. Even if it is a matter of saving them from themselves.

And the concern is that it seems to be taking a long time for anything concrete to be done.

In January a high-ranking Chinese consulate member in Christchurch expressed concern for the safety of his countrymen on our roads.

He said a lot more needed to be done to educate them, because our driving conditions were so different.

And yes, this might be tricky because countries that have signed up to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic receive reciprocal rights to drive in each others' countries, and domestic laws can't be written to override this. And we don't want to curb our own rights to drive overseas.

But if there is a real problem here, and the consulate thinks there is, surely something better can be done.

By continuing to highlight the issue, our hope is that will happen.

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- The Timaru Herald

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