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Should Tourist Drivers be required to pass another Test?

A large number of fatal road accidents involving tourists has prompted road safety campaigners in New Zealand to call for tougher rules for foreign drivers.

New Zealand’s South Island often gets talked about as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Away from the mountains, lakes, and glaciers, however, lies a shocking statistic. One in every 12 fatal road collisions on South Island roads involves a driver from another country.

This finding comes from research conducted by the New Zealand Transport Agency and is shocking considering that tourist drivers in rental cars make up only 1% of all traffic in the whole country.

During the recent New Zealand summer season, five-year-old Ruby Jay Marris was killed in a fatal road accident when the vehicle in which she was travelling collided with a ute driven by a Chinese tourist.

Other fatal accidents in New Zealand have involved foreign drivers with very little driving experience. In 2012, Grant Roberts was killed in a collision with a Chinese student who had only arrived in New Zealand the day before the accident. At an inquest into Mr Roberts’ death, the student revealed that she had less than one months’ driving experience in total and had not been behind the wheel in 10 months.

Mr Roberts’ family has called for a better system to screen foreign drivers before they are allowed to drive in New Zealand. Grant’s 10 year-old son Sean has petitioned the government to introduce a practical driving test for all overseas drivers to pass before they are allowed to drive in the country.

New Zealand motoring expert and road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson has called the tourist driving situation “an unexploded bomb” and has called for even more changes including a 24-hour ‘cool-down period’ for travellers coming off long haul flights before they can be allowed to hire a rental car.

It remains to be seen whether any of the recommendations will be accepted by the New Zealand Government, but a group of 25 car rental companies are already taking action. They have vowed to work together to create a code of best practice aimed at educating tourists who want to drive in New Zealand. The new code is expected to include better screening of a tourist’s driving experience and educate them about driving conditions in New Zealand before they arrive.

The new code has been welcomed by the family of Ruby Jay Marris but they would like it to go further, with Ruby’s uncle Chris Cant urging the New Zealand government to make the code’s proposals mandatory requirements for all car rental operators, rather than something that they can choose whether or not to follow.

In the UK, foreign drivers do not have to undergo any further training or take any additional tests before they can drive on our roads. Road safety charity Brake argues that this puts UK drivers at risk and have issued recommendations urging the UK Government to introduce tests for all foreign drivers to demonstrate that they can drive safely on UK roads.

UK tourists driving on holiday abroad should read up on any unique driving customs or laws in the country which they are visiting. If you’ll be driving on unfamiliar roads on holiday this year, see our blog: Holiday Car Hire: Tips for Driving Abroad on the Other Side of the Road

If you have been injured in an accident involving a foreign driver the expert Personal Injury Lawyers at Slater and Gordon can advise you on whether a claim for compensation is likely to succeed. 98% of our personal injury claims are dealt with on a No Win, No Fee agreement, meaning there is no financial risk to you.

Call us for a free consultation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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