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New Zealanders want special driving rules for foreign tourists

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Special rules for overseas drivers are favored by the majority of New Zealanders, according to a Herald-Digipoll survey.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Special rules for overseas drivers are favored by the majority of New Zealanders, according to a Herald-Digipoll survey.

More than three quarters of 750 people polled wanted tests for overseas drivers or bans on rental companies hiring cars to those straight off long flights. Only 20.6 percent said rule changes would be too hard to implement.

The largest group – 33.9 percent – said all those who drive on the right-hand side of roads back home should be made to sit written and practical tests before being allowed behind the wheel here. A further 27.4 percent wanted all foreigners except for Australians to sit tests.

Banning rental companies from hiring cars to those immediately off flights of eight hours or more were favoured by 15.1 percent.

The survey follows concern over the number of fatal or serious injury crashes involved foreign drivers, including two triple fatality smashes.

Although the police say “many more” New Zealanders are killed or injured by other Kiwis than by foreigners, the primary fault for all 11 fatal crashes involving overseas drivers in 2013 lay with the visitors.

Overseas drivers were found at fault in 75 percent of 538 injury crashes in which they were involved. But although failure to adjust to local conditions was blamed for seven fatal crashes, that was the suspected cause of just 26 per cent of the injury crashes.

Despite the poll findings, the Government is defending education ahead of new rules.

A Ministry of Transport spokesman said special tests would likely be inconsistent with this country’s obligations under a United Nations convention on road traffic, which also enable Kiwis to drive in overseas territories including Australia, Britain, the United States, Canada and the European Union.

“We urge tourists and recent arrivals to take advantage of the good, free information that is available about … New Zealand Roads.”

Rental Vehicle Association chief Barry Kidd said mandatory measures would be difficult to enforce.

Deaths on New Zealand roads made up 41.7 percent of all fatalities across Australasia over the holiday season, despite New Zealand making up only 15.2 per cent of the combined transtasman population. Holiday road toll figures released by the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency put New Zealand’s toll at 20 – three higher than the official toll here – compared with 28 in Australia. The discrepancy in the NZ toll was because the agency tracked deaths over a 12-day period from the beginning of December 23 until the end of January 3. NZ officials counted fatalities between 4pm on Christmas Eve and 6am yesterday.

The Automobile Association’s Dylan Thomsen described the agency’s figures as “quite staggering”.

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Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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