Road safety experts have urged incoming tourists to take care on the roads as the festive season approaches after a German tourist crashed a rental car in Whangarei while searching for a map.

Martina Maria Sczygiel, 43, had been in Northland for less than a day when she slammed the rental car into an oncoming vehicle on Abbey Caves' Rd, about 5.30pm last Sunday.

She admitted in the Whangarei District Court to a charge of careless or inconsiderate driving causing death or injury and was ordered to pay $500 reparation.

The reparation will be paid to Brian Overton, driver of the oncoming vehicle who broke his leg in three places and suffered a laceration to his left toe.


Judge Simon Maude said Sczygiel checked into a backpackers in Whangarei and drove into town to buy a coffee.

She started reading a map of Whangarei, crossed the centreline just before a bend and collided with the oncoming car.

Sczygiel told police she was tired and jetlagged from the flight and needed a quick look at the map to ensure her directions were right.

Her lawyer Dave Sayes said she went down to pick up a map when the accident occurred.

He said Sczygiel co-operated fully with police, was extremely sorry and apologetic.

She wanted to spend time in Christchurch before flying back home, Mr Sayes said.

The damage to Mr Overton's car was covered by insurance.

Judge Maude said Ms Sczygiel's inattention led to serious consequences for the victim Mr Overton.

He disqualified her from possessing or obtaining a driver's licence for six months.

Road safety co-ordinator for Whangarei/Kaipara, Gillian Archer, said reading while driving was a "no, no".

It was similar to texting where the driver's concentration was severely affected.

Ms Archer said as the festive season approached, motorists should be patient because the roads would be busy and advised drivers not to drink and drive.

Anyone suffering from fatigue should not drive and drivers should take breaks every two hours.

Ms Archer said Tourism NZ, Automobile Association, rental and campervan companies frequently dished out road safety messages to tourists. This included advising them on which side of the road to drive.