Car hire companies should provide more help, visitors say

Car rental companies and airlines could do more to advise tourists about driving in New Zealand, and Kiwis could also show more appreciation behind the wheel, say a visiting American couple.

But they add that visitors should educate themselves before they take to the road and exercise caution when driving.

Texans Kyle Anderson and his wife Jacqueline said the locals were generally good drivers, the roads and signage were great and keeping left probably isn't as hard as you'd think.

The Herald caught up with the Andersons at Waitomo close to the intersection of SH3 and SH36 - one of the Waikato's most notorious black spots - where two Americans died in separate vehicle accidents in 2012.


The Andersons arrived after a horrific few days on New Zealand roads, in which four Kiwis were killed in two accidents involving visiting drivers on May 30 near Whitianga and the following day at Rakaia.

Mr Anderson, a 27-year-old emergency medical technician with the Fire Service in Austin, said he couldn't recall seeing any literature about driving in New Zealand on his flight but was forewarned by a Kiwi travel agent who booked their tickets for them.

He said the rental car company Thrifty also did not give them a briefing about driving in New Zealand before he hired a Toyota Camry at Auckland International Airport.

"They didn't tell us to drive on the left side even after they took our drivers' licence and they knew we were from the United States," he said.

The Andersons think car rental firms should be legally required to do this and believe rental cars should at least have stickers on the dashboard or steering wheel warning drivers to keep left.

A Thrifty New Zealand spokeswoman said the firm "encouraged international visitors to familiarise themselves with New Zealand road rules and key differences about driving in New Zealand prior to travelling to New Zealand".

She said there were information brochures available at hire kiosks and on the company's website.

Mr Anderson said the road signage was excellent and road conditions were also very good, even for someone who comes from a state where six-lane, one-way freeways were the norm.

He said people in the US generally drove in much larger vehicles and at higher speeds (Austin's speed limit is 70mph, or 112km/h) but New Zealanders, from what he had seen, were good drivers.

"Most people here stick to the speed limit but I think people could give a wave and a smile every now and then."

He said roundabouts were confusing as there were few in the US.

Tim Alpe, chief executive of Jucy Rentals, said overseas customers were given a verbal briefing about road rules and information in a pamphlet.

Go Rentals general manager James Dalglish said all drivers were supplied with a Transport Agency resource explaining driving in New Zealand.