Word of the day


Aa – basaltic lava forming very rough, jagged masses with a light frothy texture.

What do we do about tourist drivers?


A five-year-old lost her life in a head-on collision on Saturday.

The driver of one of the vehicles has been charged with dangerous driving causing death.

He’s a Chinese tourist.

. . . The latest figures, from 2013, show overseas drivers were involved in 11 fatal accidents, 90 causing serious injury and more than 400 that caused minor injuries. In all 11 fatalities, the overseas driver was found to be at fault.

In the four years to 2013, 37 percent of crashes in Westland involved an overseas driver, 25 percent in Southland, 24 percent in Queenstown-Lakes and 17 percent in Central Otago.

Yesterday’s accidents come just days after three American citizens were killed when their car crossed the centre line and collided with a logging truck north of Tokoroa.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss told 3 News any fatal or serious accident is a tragedy and the Government, police and NZTA are trying to reduce crashes through what’s called the Visiting Drivers Signature Project.

That includes better signage on tourist routes, directional arrows on the road, the use of rumble strips, guidelines for rental vehicle companies and steering wheel safety tags in rental cars. . .

This will inevitably bring more calls for tourists to have to do a driving test before they can drive here, which the AA does not favour:

. . .  AA national manager for policy Simon Douglas told MPs that visiting drivers are not ove-represented at a national level in road accidents.

“AA does not believe that a practical test at the border for visitors is pragmatic or practical. We just don’t believe it will be able to be implemented or make a difference,” he said.

Instead Simon Douglas said the Government should prioritise the roll-out in tourist areas of rubber strips, wire-rope barriers, and arrows reminding drivers to keep left.

If tests could be implemented it would almost certainly result in reciprocal tests for New Zealanders overseas.

It might weed out a few really incompetent tourist drivers but would do nothing to counter the danger of generally competent drivers who revert to their home driving habits after a while.

When we’re in countries where we have to drive on the other side of the road my farmer and I reckon it takes both of us to make sure we don’t get complacent. The few times I’ve driven by myself on the right-hand side of the road I’ve planned the trip meticulously and constantly reminded myself to keep right and look left first.

There’s been an awful start to the road toll this year with 46 deaths from 41 fatal crashes by last Friday compared with 34 from 33 crashes at the same time last year.

Most of those weren’t caused by tourists but of course there are a lot more local drivers than visitors.

Whatever we can do to make tourist drivers safer also needs to apply to all of us.


Lowest road toll since 1950


Safer roads and vehicles and better driving are factors in the lowest road toll since 1950.

As of Tuesday morning, 254 people have died on the roads this year – 17% fewer than last year.

In the last 60 years the only other year with a road toll below 300 was in 2011.

AA general manager of motoring affairs Mike Noon says 2013 has seen the lowest number of people killed in road crashes since 1950, when the road toll was 232. . . .

Mr Noon says vehicle and road safety are big factors driving down road deaths, while people’s driving habits, and attitudes to road safety have also improved.

The road toll doesn’t record non-fatal injuries and the numbers don’t reflect the impact even one death has on family and friends.

But a lower toll is encouraging.

AA’s 10 point election plan for road safety


The AA has set out a 10 point action plan for improving road safety:

Safe drivers
•        Introduce saliva-based roadside drugged driving testing.
•       Increase rehabilitation treatment for recidivist drunk drivers.
•        Extend the minimum learner licence period to 12 months rather than six months.

Yes to the first two, but I am less enthusiastic about the third.

Now the licence age has been raised extending the learner period would make it difficult for young people in the country to get their full licence before they leave school which often means leaving home too.

Safe vehicles
•        Raise the safety standards of imported vehicles requiring new cars to have electronic stability control and a minimum NCAP crash rating of 4 stars and used cars to have at least a 3 star NCAP rating or meet suitable safety standards.

Safe roads and roadsides
•        Reprioritise transport spending so an extra $150 million a year is spent on low-cost road safety engineering improvements.
•        Dedicate any new traffic fine revenue to road safety initiatives.

A lot more median barriers would be helpful too.

I’d also like more attention paid to the placement of passing lanes.  It’s very dangerous when they run out on corners or the brow of a hill and it would be safer to have them in only one direction on any stretch of road without a median barrier.

Safe speeds
•        Make fixed speed cameras more visible to drivers and signpost fixed speed camera areas.
•        Introduce red light cameras in all major cities.

The suggestion to improve the visibility of fixed speed cameras was made recently and predictably got the response that all that does is slow people down until they’ve passed them.

The same argument might be made for mobile ones. The sight of a police car does tend to slow traffic down but it usually speeds up again when drivers think they’re out of range.

Trials suggest cameras do help prevent red light-jumping.

Deaths and injuries as a result of road accidents have human and financial costs. Safer drivers and safer roads should reduce both.

%d bloggers like this: