Kiwi driver test or BYO…do we need a “licence to tour”?
By Kelly Stock, Media and Communications Manager, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism
21 March 2014
So there’s been quite a bit chatter in recent media about imposing a potential special tourist licence for visitors to New Zealand who are driving on our roads. This has been circulating for a while, but with the increase in the number of accidents involving foreign drivers in New Zealand it is gaining more publicity. "The World's Fastest Indian" seems to be no longer just a movie title!
So if New Zealand took this stand what would the impact be on visitor numbers to our little country? While “being at the end of the world” may be a great marketing proposition to sell the unspoiled nature and beauty of New Zealand, it also throws up a couple of large challenges in terms of time and cost to get here. Do we really want to put more barriers in the way for potential visitors? More and more independent travellers are choosing to have their own experience here in the South Island, driving around and taking in the sights they choose and avoiding the large tourist coaches.
The logistics seem difficult, and I’m not sure that bad driving is an issue that sits with tourists alone.
Kelly Stock, Media and Communications Manager
Realistically what kind of licence test would we be able to implement that would really benefit other drivers? Would it be a theory test? Would it be a physical competency test? Could a visitor take a test online while at home so that when they arrived off the plane they could just show they’d passed, pick up their rental car and head down to Lake Tekapo? But how would you know that it was actually the driver that took the test? Or maybe they’d have to sit a practical test at 1am after their flight has arrived and they've got through customs? The logistics seem difficult, and I’m not sure that bad driving is an issue that sits with tourists alone.
New Zealand driving conditions can be challenging at the best of times, even for experienced Kiwi drivers. It’s why we have a series of television ads, reminding us of some of the most basic rules out there. Remember these?
- Drive to the conditions when they change reduce your speed.
- Brake on the straight before it’s too late.
- Only a fool breaks the two second rule.
- Speed kills.
- And the classic… If you drink and drive you’re a bl**dy idiot.
Seems like we all need to be reminded of these pretty basic rules on our roads, so maybe a simple start is that we also do this for tourists? Anyone giving visitors keys to a vehicle, should have standard documentation that emphasises some of our key road laws.
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- Keep left.
- Overtake ONLY when there’s enough clear road visible in front of you.
- Open road speed limit is never over 100kph (not mph!).
- In bad conditions slow down and turn your lights on.
- And maybe even a few more Kiwi specific ones like not swerving for the stray possum on the road – think of the advertisement on TV at the moment – “It’s either us or the possum.”
Yes, there are some terrible drivers out there, both local AND visitors. We should absolutely do all we can to keep the number of accidents on our roads down, but let’s make sure our actions make a difference, and they don't impede attracting visitors to our country.
**Disclaimer. This is a personal voice from the author of the blog, and does not necessarily represent the official position of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.