Overseas drivers in 30 injury crashes

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TRIPLE FATALITY: Three people died in this May 31 accident near Rakaia when their vehicle was hit by a dutch driver in a four-wheel drive who had failed to stop at a stop sign
TRIPLE FATALITY: Three people died in this May 31 accident near Rakaia when their vehicle was hit by a dutch driver in a four-wheel drive who had failed to stop at a stop sign

Overseas drivers were involved in 30 injury crashes in Western Bay in the last two years, new figures show.

Crashes involving foreign drivers made up 3 per cent of all 984 injury crashes in the region during 2012 and 2013, according to New Zealand Transport Agency figures.

Six of the overseas driver crashes resulted in serious injury, and none were fatal.

Last year, overseas drivers were involved in at least 558 crashes nationwide that resulted in death or injury.

The visitors were found at fault in about 75 per cent of crashes, including 11 fatal accidents.

On Queen's Birthday weekend, four people were killed by foreign drivers in two fatal accidents.

Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, of Holland failed to stop at a stop sign at Rakaia on May 31 and crashed into another vehicle, killing Abigail Hone, 12, her friend Ella Summerfield, 12, and Ella's mother Sally, 49.

He has since pleaded guilty to three counts of careless use of a vehicle causing death and one charge of careless use of a vehicle causing injury.

The previous night, on the Coromandel Peninsula, US tourist Cody Dickey, 23, crossed the centreline in his campervan, killing Aucklander Robyn Eilleen Derrick, a passenger in an oncoming four-wheel-drive.

He was ordered to pay $5500 for emotional harm, and disqualified from driving for 18 months.

ABC Rentals Tauranga owner Neale Morris said his company put "keep left" stickers on rental vehicle dashboards and gave out road rules brochures if required.

He saw "all extremes" of tourist and Kiwi drivers, he said.

"We have locals who can't even get out of the yard sometimes but generally overseas people are already pretty clued up on the travelling around."

New Zealand law requires visitors to hold a current and valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit in order to drive.

NZTA says the Government is working to reduce road crashes through its Safer Journeys strategy.

Rental car companies had also implemented safety measures such as pre-travel emails to customers, on-site safe driving instructions, "keep left" stickers on vehicle windscreens, and showing customers a safe driving video, NZTA said.

Road safety director Ernst Zollner said driver fatigue after long-haul flights, and unfamiliarity with roads and road conditions affected both overseas and New Zealand drivers.

NZTA was working with police, ACC, local government and the Ministry of Transport on a road safety project aimed at 'visiting drivers' with the initial focus directed towards the South Island, he said.

It would look at why drivers visiting from overseas experienced difficulties on New Zealand roads and how to encourage safer choices. From April, driving video footage developed by Tourism NZ and NZTA was being screened on in-bound Air New Zealand flights from China.

Mr Zollner said crash data showed many more New Zealanders were killed and injured by other New Zealanders on our roads than by overseas drivers.

"But while serious crashes involving overseas visitors and tourists are relatively rare, each one is a tragedy for all of those affected."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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