John Key: No law changes for tourist drivers

One of the cars involved in the triple fatal. Photo / Westpac Rescue Christchurch
One of the cars involved in the triple fatal. Photo / Westpac Rescue Christchurch

Prime Minister John Key does not believe laws need to be tightened around tourists driving on New Zealand roads.

Two of this weekend's fatal crashes have involved tourists, one driving a campervan that allegedly crossed the centreline and killed an Auckland woman in the Coromandel; the other a driver who allegedly ran a stop sign in Canterbury, killing a Sumner woman, her daughter and her daughter's friend.

Mr Key, speaking in Samoa today, said he didn't believe changes were needed to current laws or testing requirements.

"If you look at the accident rate of tourists who come and drive in New Zealand versus New Zealanders themselves, it's pretty consistent. They're about the same accident rate per capita. So I don't think that's a big issue."

As Minister of Tourism, he said there were a number of working groups looking at the issue.

"Increasingly, the rental car companies and also some airlines are playing proactive role in trying to improve driver education and I think there will be a couple of groups established to ensure we're doing everything we can," Mr Key said.

"We do need to recognise that some of our roads are quite difficult terrain for people who may be inexperienced drivers. Lindis Pass in the middle of winter, that's tough terrain for any driver, let alone someone who might not be experienced driving in those conditions. It's a good thing the rental companies and airlines are starting to play a bigger role, and I think the Government just needs to work alongside them to see if there's more we can do."


Sally Summerfield, her daughter Ella Summerfield and Ella's friend Abigail Hone were killed in the crash near Rakaia.

Dog and Lemon car review editor, Clive Matthew-Wilson, a road safety campaigner, said the Government needed to make it much harder to get behind the wheel of a rental car here.

He believed travellers should be banned from renting cars until they had passed an online driving test.

"It's not just a question of putting some questions and answers on a website and hoping people look there. The Government needs to implement an interactive test that must be passed before a vehicle can be legally rented to a foreign driver."

Assistant Commissioner of road policing Dave Cliff said yesterday that police worked with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), the Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency to tackle the issue, including encouraging rental companies to brief customers about the road rules and regulations before they drove off.

Watch: Triple fatal crash in Canterbury

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Nationally, fewer than 2 per cent of fatal crashes involved overseas drivers, he said.

However, in some popular tourist areas such as Queenstown, that figure rose to around 25 per cent, Mr Cliff said.

Kate Meldrum, general manager marketing and customer experience at Tourism Holdings Limited, said yesterday that tourists who used its campervans were given extensive information on the New Zealand road rules in several languages, before and during their trip.

- APNZ

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