Tourist drivers are responsible for 26 fatal accidents a year. 26 lives lost because tourists are uneducated concerning the conditions on our roads. I’ve heard numerous stories and read many articles that all share the same message, namely that tourists need to be tested before they drive on our roads. However, there are two sides to this story, those who think tourists should be tested and those who think we’re blaming tourists for our own mistakes. My job is to tell both stories, and, looking objectively at the evidence, help you to decide which side is the more persuasive.
The statistics show that crashes due to tourists have risen from 3% in 1995 to 7% in 2016. This seems less significant compared to the recent boom in tourism but is still representative of 26 lives that were needlessly lost. These fatalities could’ve been prevented but the government still refuses to intervene with the tourists before they hit our roads. Peter Newport from the “Spinoff”, called driving in Queenstown “like Russian roulette”.The problem is that most tourists are used to flat motorways or wide multilane highways, not the windy narrow roads we have down in Otago. Not to mention that most tourists are jetlagged driving on a different side of the road and are in an unfamiliar car, this makes the margin of error extremely small. The articles I have researched include a story of a local following a tourist down the Crown Range: the tourist was using the centre line as a guideline nearly having several crashes on this road’s blind corners. There are also several stories of tourists actually being relieved when the police take their keys off them because they found the unfamiliar roads of New Zealand very stressful. This supports the viewpoint that tourists should be either tested on entry to New Zealand for their knowledge on our road laws or educated upon said rules.
In 2016 there were 286 fatal crashes and 2099 serious injury crashes caused by New Zealanders, compared with 26 fatal crashes and 114 serious injury crashes caused by tourists. Based upon this data many believe that New Zealanders are at fault and are using tourists as a scapegoat. There is no doubt that the 7% of tourist drivers at fault in New Zealand’s fatal crashes are a factor, but there is no denying that 93%of the accidents are caused by New Zealand licence holders. It could be said, that New Zealanders are blaming tourists in order to take their poor driving out of the limelight. In doing so, New Zealanders are confusing their own image of a clean green friendly society with one that cowers, does not accept blame and passes it on to the innocent tourist. New Zealand drivers need to first accept that tourist drivers only play a small part in the hundreds of preventable road deaths each year. I believe however that tourist driver should not be undermined by consideration of our own driving habits as foreign drivers are still a major factor in New Zealand’s road toll.
In addition, the proportion of accidents suffered by foreign drivers is much higher than that of New Zealand drivers when compared to the total number of each group on our roads, so that in actual fact, foreign drivers are more dangerous.
Both the driving of New Zealanders and tourists is frankly unacceptable. There are only so many times you can blame car crashes on the road conditions and not pure human error. I believe that the New Zealand government is currently doing enough to keep the conditions of New Zealand roads at a safe standard. However I also believe that the New Zealand Transport agency needs to improve especially the education of foreign drivers unfamiliar with our road code, and perhaps enforce harsher penalties for irresponsible driving on their part as an incentive to drive safely. It is clear from the above that there is more evidence that foreign drivers cause many of the worst highway accident, especially head-on collisions from driving on the wrong side. Therefore we can all help stop fatalities due to tourist drivers by either educating them or taking the keys and lives of New Zealanders out of their hands.