Calls to introduce 'visitor' V-plates for tourist drivers
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Motorists have called for the introduction of "visitor" V-plates for tourist drivers following a spate of incidents involving foreign drivers.
An Australian tourist appeared in court on Wednesday facing multiple charges after a three-car pile-up near Hobbiton injured seven people, one critically, while over the Easter break three tourists were stuck on the roadside in Hawke's Bay after a motorist took their car keys off them.
The keys were delivered to Wairoa Police Station late on Saturday morning, about the same time as three Asian tourists were still trying to explain to other motorists someone had taken their car keys as they were parked beside the highway.
Following a nerve-wracking experience while driving in a foreign city, Australian Suzane Jones came up with the idea of introducing voluntary V-plates, believing the move would help locals recognise tourist drivers and subsequently encourage them to drive more cautiously around them.
Jones told ABC that her idea is different from an enforced T-plate for tourist drivers.
"You often a see a person trying to get across a lane quickly, they're obviously not knowing where they are going.
"Sometimes we have courteous drivers who will pull back and let them in, other times we have people who aren't as courteous and all things can happen.
"Unlike a mandatory 'tourist' plate, the plate would be a voluntary identifier and a positive step to ensure the safety of both visiting drivers and locals alike," she said.
She said the V is preferred over T for tourist, explaining that a V-plate could be used by anyone unfamiliar with a region even if they are from the same country.
The plate would "alert other drivers to allow a little more space, courtesy and a friendly wave for our visiting drivers who may be distracted when navigating in unfamiliar territory", she said.
According to the 2015 data from the New Zealand Transport Agency, foreign drivers contribute to about 6 per cent of all crashes resulting in injury or death - even though tourists are estimated to make up just 1 per cent of all road traffic in the country.
In 2014 overseas drivers (those with an overseas drivers licence) were involved in 16 fatal traffic crashes, 100 serious injury crashes and 436 minor injury crashes.
Of these crashes, the overseas driver was at fault in 15 of the fatal crashes, 78 of the serious injury crashes and 332 of the minor injury crashes, resulting in 22 deaths, 118
serious injuries and 551 minor injuries.
The problem is worse in popular travel destinations on the South Island, where overseas drivers make up a quarter or more of all road crashes.
The top two causes of crashes are drivers losing control or drivers not being familiar with New Zealand's road rules and conditions.
In 2016 a group of Kiwis threw their support behind a campaign calling for all tourist drivers to drive with "T-plates" on their rental cars.
The founder of the "T-Plates for Tourists" movement said tourists should have to pass a test before they can drive on New Zealand's challenging, distracting and often unforgiving terrain.
"People who come to this country are given the right to drive despite many of them not knowing our driving rules or regulations - hence the number of crashes that occur on our roads," the man, known only as Josh, said.
"I think there should be a test for tourists to sit like our learners test that is compulsory for anyone who wants to drive in this country.
"Following passing this test they could receive a T-plate which would allow other drivers to know the dangers."
The campaign's Facebook page attracted more than 3000 followers and a petition has started up on its dedicated website urging the Government to introduce a T-plate system.
Josh told the ABC in 2016 that he believes the idea won't discourage tourists from coming to New Zealand.
"This is just another rule that people entering the country would have to abide by. It would be like asking, 'do you think Customs regulations stop people from coming to New Zealand?'.
"I believe that a T-plate is not the final solution, but that this campaign will allow a final solution to be found through the involvement of the public, government and people in the tourism industry," he said.