Recently there has been a lot written in the media about the high accident rate of tourists driving in New Zealand.
There have been calls for better education and testing of overseas drivers from some, while the Chinese Consulate has expressed concern for the safety of their people on New Zealand roads, wanting more to be done to protect their people while driving in New Zealand.
According to figures quoted by the New Zealand Transport Agency where tourists were involved in fatal vehicle crashes, they were found to be at fault in 78 per cent of cases.
Along one of New Zealand’s key tourist routes, the road between Queenstown and Milford Sound, New Zealand Police have been quoted that almost 80 per cent of crashes in the region involve tourist drivers. Police Patrols in the area regularly stop tourists for speeding and dangerous driving and in period of just 13 days in December 2013 ten tourists had their drivers licences revoked.
As a large percentage of tourists travel in Rental Cars, there have been calls for Rental Car Companies to help educate drivers. The Rental Vehicle Association and its members have distributed safe driving brochures and a large number of rental cars display ‘keep left’ reminder stickers on vehicle dashboards.
While driver education and testing is all well and good and will it make a difference?
Perhaps the problem with dangerous driving begins when a self drive holiday to New Zealand is first planned and booked? Most New Zealand Rental Car Companies and Tourism Operators have dealt with customers who arrive in the country on a mission to cram as much as possible into an almost impossible schedule. Many of their activities and accommodation arrangements are pre-booked with very few days (if any) to relax, and very little time to get from place to place. In fact some travel itineraries are so tight that tourists will travel late in the day or evening just to get to their next location. While New Zealand appears to be a relatively small country, the driving times are deceptively long.
Perhaps the high rate of speeding and dangerous driving by tourists is driven by the need to get to the next pre-booked activity or nights accommodation? A recent case of a tourist convicted for dangerous driving while trying to make it Milford Sound to catch a boat is just one good example of this.
At Rental Cars New Zealand we believe that cramming too much into a short amount of time is a factor and therefore our advice is to take a few extra days and allow time to slow down, relax and enjoy your self drive holiday.
In our opinion, if travel agents and booking agents helped educate tourists about realistic travel times and distances, drivers may just slow down and help make New Zealand’s roads safer.