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Tourism focus on visiting driver safety

July 28, 2014 Association No Comments Email Email

The Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) says the industry recognises the importance of keeping visiting drivers safe on our roads – but mandatory testing of drivers is not the answer.

TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts is welcoming the amount of activity underway to improve road safety for visiting drivers and New Zealanders.

Chris Roberts, Tourism New Zealand“A lot is already being done to educate visiting drivers about New Zealand road rules and driving conditions. We are now seeing a coordinated and comprehensive approach across the private and public sectors, and TIA is ready and willing to play an active role.”

TIA is part of a Visiting Drivers signature project focusing on ways to improve road safety for visiting drivers and New Zealanders. Led by the New Zealand Transport Agency, the project involves representatives from the tourism and rental vehicle industries and central and local government.

“Its scope is broad, with potential actions ranging from providing accurate travel time information, to introducing safer speeds on high risk visitor routes. The project focuses on visiting drivers’ journeys in Southland and Otago, areas which appear to have higher rates of crashes involving overseas drivers than other regions, with the intention to apply lessons learnt from this project nationally,” says Mr Roberts.

TIA is also talking with its individual rental car and campervan members and with the wider industry about developing support tools outlining what information to give to visiting drivers, in what format and when.

“The tools would draw on the some of the excellent material that has already been produced, including apps and videos, as well as new marketing material and resources under development.”

Mr Roberts says TIA, together with other industry leaders, has an important role to play promoting visiting driver safety to tourism operators who interact with travellers, such as rental vehicle operators, accommodation providers, airports and visitor centres.

“We are also exploring ways to communicate with those outside the industry that come into contact with drivers on international licences, such as second hand car dealers, the international education sector and immigration officials.

“Some initiatives can be implemented relatively quickly. For example, tourism businesses that don’t have online journey calculators can encourage travellers to use the AA Traveller driving time and distance calculator. We know from NZ Transport Agency research that almost 25% of visiting drivers underestimate journey times on New Zealand roads.”

TIA doesn’t support the introduction of a mandatory test for visiting drivers.

The introduction of a test would put New Zealand out of step with the rest of the world and could damage our reputation internationally, says Mr Roberts.

“New Zealand is a signatory to the UN Convention on Road Traffic which permits all overseas licence holders to drive here for up to 12 months. If we change that, it would open the way for other countries to impose a test on New Zealanders when we travel overseas. It would also be wrong to assume that simply subjecting someone to a test before they get behind the wheel is going to stop crashes from happening.

“The tourism industry’s Tourism 2025 growth framework stresses the importance of lowering barriers to travel and enhancing the visitor experience. The current travel trend sees more visitors choosing to self-drive while on holiday in New Zealand. We do not want to discourage these visitors, but we do want to keep them and others on our roads safe.

“Road signage, road design and condition, traffic management and policing all need to form part of the response. Where the tourism industry can assist is in ensuring our visitors are well informed about our roads and how to drive safely on them.”

Facts and figures (Source: Ministry of Transport)

  • Crashes involving overseas licence holders have fallen nationally in the past five years.
  • In 2013, 2.9% of drivers involved in fatal crashes and 3.9% of drivers involved in injury crashes nationwide were on overseas licences.
  • In 2013, drivers with an overseas drivers licence were involved in 11 fatal traffic crashes, 90 serious injury crashes and 448 minor injury crashes. Of these crashes, the overseas driver had primary fault in 11 of the fatal crashes, 78 of the serious injury crashes and 328 of the minor injury crashes, resulting in 13 deaths, 105 serious injuries and 508 minor injuries.
  • With its high visitor numbers, combined with challenging roads and road conditions, the lower South Island has had more incidents of overseas drivers involved in road crashes.
  • Even in the lower South Island, overseas drivers are involved in a minority of crashes. Crash Analysis System data shows there were 72 at-fault overseas drivers involved in fatal and serious crashes in the Otago and Southland region over the last five years. In this same period there were 340 New Zealand full licence drivers were recorded as at-fault.

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