Are tourist drivers in New Zealand more likely to be involved in vehicle collisions? Recent statistics gathered by the Transport Agency point to ‘yes’. About 558 crashes recorded in 2014 involved visiting drivers, and the foreigners were at fault for nearly three-quarters of the incidents.
While the majority of the incidents involved minor collisions that only require a short visit to Breen Panelbeaters to hammer out the dent, others culminated in serious injuries and even death.
Tourists Have Trouble with New Zealand Roads
Many tourist drivers have trouble with New Zealand’s roads – longer and narrower than most roads in other countries; it winds through harsh, unforgiving terrain. It takes considerable skill to drive here, and many foreigners have a tough time adjusting.
There are many reasons why tourists find it so challenging to drive on country roads:
- Left-sided driving – Like Britain, Japan, and Australia, New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road. This proves to be a significant challenge for tourists from countries who are used to driving on the right side of the road.
- Unfamiliar road signage – Road signs in New Zealand can be a bit different from the signs in other countries. Signs for railway crossing lines, for example, are unfamiliar to many tourists.
- Unfamiliar road design – Kiwi roads are narrower than the ones found in most other countries, which makes it difficult to adjust to the oncoming traffic.
- Different road rules – Some road rules are unique to New Zealand. One of them is the ruling that drivers who are turning left have to give way to oncoming vehicles that are turning right into the same road.
- Distracted by scenery – Some tourists simply do not keep their eyes on the road, distracted by the scenery in the country.
A Cry for T-Plates
The problem is so widespread that some Kiwis want to implement tourist plates, or T-plates, which will alert drivers that a tourist is driving. As car rentals are popular in the country, locals want to increase safety by applying more stringent screening tests for tourists who want to drive.
Whether these measures will be approved is yet to be seen.