Tourist driver licences under scrutiny after deaths

By Christina McDonald

Snr Const Blackford said police national headquarters had notified the New Zealand Transport Agency about the use of overseas driver's licences. Photo / Thinkstock
Snr Const Blackford said police national headquarters had notified the New Zealand Transport Agency about the use of overseas driver's licences. Photo / Thinkstock

A Queenstown policeman says more tourists seem to be driving poorly and coming to the attention of police, and he is responding to a request from a coroner to provide information about how non-New Zealanders acquire New Zealand driving licences.

Senior Constable Chris Blackford said Christchurch coroner Richard McElrea's inquiries are primarily centred on the death of two motorcyclists in the Lindis Pass in November last year.

The accident was caused by a 20-year-old Chinese tourist who was driving a rental car and drifted on to gravel then lost control of the vehicle when a group of motorcyclists were on the same stretch of road, travelling in the opposite direction.

In 2001, an 18-year-old Chinese man studying at Lincoln High School died when he lost control of his vehicle and Mr McElrea has sent the inquest into the death, written by himself and released in 2002, to Snr Const Blackford.

The report found the student was driving with a false document instead of a valid Chinese licence, and was in breach of his New Zealand learner licence conditions.

Snr Const Blackford said police national headquarters had notified the New Zealand Transport Agency about the use of overseas driver's licences.

"The advice from New Zealand police headquarters was that the New Zealand Government was a signatory to some international conventions on road traffic which were signed many years ago."

These conventions allowed visitors to New Zealand to drive on their home-country licence for up to a year and for New Zealanders to have the same allowances in a number of destinations.

"I think it's fairly safe to assume that all those years ago the number of overseas drivers ... coming to New Zealand would not reasonably have been foreseen," Snr Const Blackford said.

"Unfortunately, in this day and age almost everything made or produced seems to be able to be copied in very sophisticated ways, as was ... the case in the fatality in 2001 with the young Chinese driver - he was found to be driving on a fake driver's licence."

"In the recent fatality on the Lindis Pass there is no indication on the police file that the driver's licence was fake, however, what was clearly evident was the lack of experience of the Chinese driver involved which has been attributed to the deaths of two New Zealanders."

He said Mr McElrea had issued instructions for further inquiries to be made in relation to "the legal aspects of the accrediting of overseas persons with New Zealand driver's licences".

Calls to the NZTA by the Otago Daily Times were not returned.

- Otago Daily Times

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