Tourist drivers are not to blame for New Zealand's horror road toll after lockdown, according to Ministry of Transport fatal crash figures.

Since lockdown, the number of tourist drivers on New Zealand roads has dropped to near zero, but there has been little change in the road toll.

Nine fatal crashes for April - the country was in lockdown until April 27 - was well down on previous years, but as soon as drivers got behind the wheel under level 3, the number of fatal crashes went back to near the level of previous years.

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Ministry of Transport figures show the number of fatal crashes in May was not as bad as the past three years, but was the same as 2016.

June had the same number of fatal crashes as 2017 and 2018, which were the worst in the past five years, and July is shaping up to be worse than all previous years, apart from 2017.

The weekend just past claimed five lives and injured many more people.

Inspector Peter McKennie, acting national manager road policing, said visiting drivers make up only a very small proportion of serious crashes on New Zealand roads, and visiting drivers crash for the same reasons as locals.

The factors involved in these fatal and serious injury crashes remain the same – failure to properly wear restraints, driving at excess speed, driving while tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving distracted such as using a cellphone, he said.

McKennie said traffic dropped 75 per cent in lockdown but people still lost their lives on the road.

Tourist Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said it is a total myth that visiting drivers are to blame for the high road toll.

He said since 2013, just 6 per cent of serious and fatal road crashes in New Zealand have involved a driver with an overseas licence.


"The industry and Government agencies have taken our joint responsibility to keep visiting drivers safe on our roads very seriously. It is all too easy to blame others. We should examine our own driving behaviours and the condition of our roading network," Roberts said.

There were 3.9 million overseas arrivals in New Zealand in the year to April 2019, of which 2 million were tourists.

Many horrific crashes in New Zealand have involved foreigners. In March last year, four tourists travelling to one of the mosques involved in the Christchurch shooting died on State Highway 1 at Kaikoura.

In February this year, a Singaporean tourist who was driving on the wrong side of the road when he caused a crash that killed a Queenstown woman was ordered to pay almost $30,000 in reparation.


The Ministry of Transport's data in 2017 showed of the 378 road deaths, 34 people died in 25 crashes that involved a foreign driver. The foreign driver was at fault in 18 of those. Only five were blamed on the driver's failure to adjust to New Zealand roads.

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Overall, across New Zealand, foreign drivers were involved in under 4 per cent of crashes in 2017.

ACC spent at least $15 million treating injured tourists over the past five years.

All tourists who have been involved in accidents get free treatment in New Zealand through our healthcare and ACC systems, regardless of whether they have travel insurance.