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Data fails to back tourist driver claims

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/04/2016

Overseas drivers are not killing or maiming more people in road crashes according to official statistics.

Figures tracking the number of overseas drivers in crashes show, despite a big rise in visitor numbers, that they have remained relatively constant over the last 10 years.

Overseas licence holders accounted for around 6 per cent of all fatal and injury crashes in the period, but there were big variations with visitors to Westland accounting for 38 per cent of crashes in the region.

Despite claims that fatigue after long-haul flights was a major factor in crashes involving foreign visitors the data did not back this up, said Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss.

"The report shows that very few short-term visitors crash within their first few days in New Zealand, and of those that do crash, fatigue is generally not a contributing factor."

Less than 10 per cent of crashes involving tourists took place within two days of them arriving in the country.

"Overseas licence holders, including short-term visitors, crash for the same reasons as New Zealand drivers," he said.

About half of the fatal crashes where foreign drivers were at fault were because they had failed to adjust to New Zealand rules or conditions including driving on the wrong side of the road or not understanding give way rules.

In 2014, overseas licenced drivers were responsible for 15 fatal crashes resulting in 22 deaths and 78 serious injury crashes, according to Ministry of Transport data.

Concerns over the behaviour of some foreign drivers forced locals in parts of the country to confiscate the keys from visitors.

The government brought in new initiatives to increase safety for visiting drivers including $25 million for road improvements and a code for car hire companies to prepare drivers for conditions they'll encounter here.

A 30,000-signature petition was presented to parliament last year by the son of a man killed in a Lindis Pass crash by a Chinese tourist calling for foreign drivers to sit a test before they get behind the wheel.

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