Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Foreign drivers worry judge

Dunedin man Riley Baker, 26, died in Dunedin Hospital on Monday. Photo / Supplied
Dunedin man Riley Baker, 26, died in Dunedin Hospital on Monday. Photo / Supplied

A High Court judge says the safety risk of foreign drivers is an issue of "widespread public concern".

Two deaths were spotlighted yesterday: Dunedin man Riley Baker, 26, died in Dunedin Hospital on Monday after his motorcycle and a car driven by a Chinese man collided, while a Chinese woman charged with the death of another motorist appealed her conviction in the High Court at Napier.

Baker died two days after his motorbike and a car collided on State Highway 1, between Palmerston and Moeraki, about 4.30pm on Saturday.

Limin Ma, 41, of Shanghai, has been charged with causing the crash that killed the talented young photographer and computer technician.

And in Napier yesterday, Chinese woman Jieling Xiao appealed her sentence for killing Tauranga motorcyclist Rhys Middleton in a February crash, just two months into her 17-month prison term.

Justice Jillian Mallon reserved her decision, but commented that foreign drivers had "become an issue of widespread public concern".

Xiao, who was in New Zealand on a 12-month working visa, had a full driver's licence in China for six years, but had limited experience driving in 100km/h zones or on single lane rural roads.

In Dunedin, Baker's friends, family and loved ones mourned the loss of the young man. His girlfriend, Amy McCarthy, said he had the biggest heart of anyone she had ever met, while another family member said he was a "very, very cautious biker" who had all the right gear and "a damn good helmet".

Seven of Baker's organs will be donated to people in need.

At the time of the crash, police said early indications suggested Baker's motorcycle was hit when a car crossed the centre line into his path.

Limin Ma is to reappear on August 23.

Ministry of Transport data shows that overseas licence holders were at fault in only 4 per cent of fatal and injury crashes they were involved in between 2010 and 2014.

Overall - regardless of fault - 6 per cent of fatal and serious injury crashes involved foreign licence holders.

But in the South Island areas of Westland, Mackenzie, Queenstown Lakes and Southland, a quarter or more road crashes involve foreign drivers.

The greatest proportion is in Westland, where 38 per cent of crashes involved an overseas driver.

University of Auckland Professor of biostatistics, Thomas Lumley, said this could partly be explained by the low population of locals and high number of tourists.

The top six nationalities involved in New Zealand crashes between 2011 and 2015 were Australians (353), Germans (294), Chinese (270), Indians (248), British (241) and Americans (185).

- NZ Herald

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