Two serious incidents within days on Northland roads involving sleep-deprived tourists have police warning long-haul visitors to rest before trying to drive long distances.

On Sunday a tired tourist from Korea ran off the road into a parked car, causing a bystander to lose a finger.

A few days earlier an American behind the wheel of a campervan found himself on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the road after narrowly missing an officer on the roadside, then two hours later forcing a police car off the road to avoid a head-on crash.

About 6.40am on Sunday a Korean man, who arrived in New Zealand after a 15-hour flight, hired a car at the airport then tried to drive to Cape Reinga, falling asleep as he was taking a corner on State Highway 1 at Okaihau.


His car drifted off the left-hand side of the road and rammed a car parked outside Okaihau Liquor Store.

A local man who was leaning against the parked people mover while his partner went to the liquor store lost part of his right ring finger.

Senior Sergeant Brian Swann, of Mid North police, said the 22-year-old Korean driver was charged with careless driving causing injury, and was to appear in the Kaikohe District Court today.

The driver and front seat passenger were uninjured but a woman seated in the back had chest pain.

The trio had just arrived in the country when they attempted the long drive north on unfamiliar roads. Both vehicles, a Nissan people mover and a Hertz rental Toyota Corolla, are write-offs.

Last Thursday a 68-year-old American defence lawyer landed in Auckland, picked up a campervan and also headed north.

As he drove through Kauri about 3.30pm he swiped the side mirror off a police car parked on the side of SH1.

Road policing Senior Sergeant Ian Row said the officer, who was talking to the driver of a car stopped in front, had to "breath in" to avoid being hit.


The driver was fined for failing to stay in lane and spoken to about New Zealand's road rules.

He was allowed to continue north but less than two hours later was involved in a second incident on Te Pua Rd near Kaikohe, where police in a marked patrol car rounded a corner to find the van on the wrong side of the road in a 100km/h zone.

They slammed on the brakes, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision.

This time the driver was forbidden to drive due to fatigue and charged with dangerous driving.

He appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Friday and was fined $250 and disqualified from driving for six months.

The officers drove the American and his van to a Kaikohe caravan park. He was continuing his 17-day tour of New Zealand by bus.

"He just didn't realise how hard it would be to drive on the left-hand side of the road, or how tired he would be. He was very thankful that no one had been hurt and he thought the disqualification was the best outcome for everyone."

Mr Row said the incidents highlighted the risks tourists were taking by trying to drive immediately after arriving in New Zealand.

It was also another reason to stick to the speed limit and wear a seatbelt, improving your chances of survival if someone else made a mistake.

He urged anyone who spotted a driver failing to stay in their lane due to fatigue or distraction to call *555 immediately.

Mr Swann said driver fatigue was an ongoing problem on Northland roads.

"Before you start you need to understand the length of your journey and be well rested. And once you start a long journey you need to take regular breaks."

At least two tourists have died on Northland roads since last November after attempting to drive long distances immediately after a long-haul flight.

A French tourist died on Christmas Day and an Englishman on November 4, 2015, both after crossing the centreline on SH1 south of Whangarei and colliding head-on with other vehicles. Both had arrived in the country that day.

In April this year an American tourist confused by oncoming headlights caused a crash on Puketona Rd that killed two Northland women, one of whom was eight months pregnant.

In that case not being used to driving on the left was a factor but fatigue was not.