Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

'T-Plates for Tourists' idea gaining traction

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There is a campaign to force tourists to drive with 'T-plates' on their cars.
There is a campaign to force tourists to drive with 'T-plates' on their cars.

A new campaign to make tourists display "T-plates" on rental vehicles is gaining traction around New Zealand, but Rotorua tourism operators are divided on the issue.

"T-Plates for Tourists" has more than 3150 "likes" on Facebook and its founder, who goes by the name Josh, has set up a website and petition at www.tplate.co.nz to bring attention to "the increasing number of road accidents that involve tourist drivers".

According to the latest data from the New Zealand Transport Agency, foreign drivers contribute to about 6 per cent of all crashes resulting in injury or death - even though tourists are estimated to make up just 1 per cent of all road traffic in the country.

"I'm hopeful that Parliament will consider the interest that the T-plate suggestion has caused as a sign that something needs to be done," Josh said.

"People unfamiliar with the driving conditions in that country are liable to make a mistake and cause a crash."

He said the campaign was not the end solution, but he hoped it would spark more debate by the public, tourism industry and the Government.

Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan said he thought the idea was a good one, in principle.

"But we don't want to say every tourist who comes to New Zealand is a bad driver. The principle is good, but we don't want to discriminate."

Affordable Adventures owner operator Lindsay Roberston said a trial of the idea could work.

"A bit like L-plates for learners, a T-plate will allow other road users to exercise more caution and understand why a particular vehicle is not so fluid on our roads.

"On the flip side, we cannot assume all tourist drivers are of the same ability and experience, as the majority of them get through our country without incident."

Rotorua Duck Tours managing director Trevor Weir said it could be part of a solution, but "it's still not going stop them from driving like idiots".

"You need to also educate them when they get here. They should not be allowed to hop off a 12 to 24 hour flight and get in a car."

Mr Weir suggested a quick course for drivers, or tests by rental car companies could help.

"Especially for people who usually drive on the other side of the road."

An American tourist spoken to by the Rotorua Daily Post said he would abide by any rules put in place by the Government, but was not convinced it would work.

Daniel Patterson, from Seattle, said he had seen some of the worst driving in the world in New Zealand.

"And I've driven in more than a dozen different countries.

"Kiwi drivers can be just as bad and the roads here are, in general, terrible, especially outside of the cities.

"Having a T-plate would just mean there's a big target on the backs of tourists."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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