Foreign driver test calls backed by 9000-strong petition

A petition bearing nearly 9000 signatures has been presented to Parliament calling for foreign drivers to sit a driving test after three months in the country. 

Black crosses were laid on the steps of Parliament to represent the 22 people killed by foreign drivers last year. A white cross was nestled in the centre, the petition organisers saying it represented the next victim.

Judy Richards, whose son Rhys was killed by a foreign driver in 2016, said it was a case of "when, not if", and asked how many people needed to die before the Government took notice.

"[I got] a phone call that no mum wants to hear. Rhys is dead... foreign driver... your stomach, your life just drains. Unless you've walked in these shoes you'll never understand".

Previous petitions calling for testing of drivers when they enter the country have failed.

Tristan Marris, whose five-year-old daughter Ruby was killed by an overseas tourist two years ago, is frustrated at the Government's inaction and says it's ridiculous that foreign drivers can just arrive here and drive on our roads without any sort of testing.

He says he adopts a practice of "car-guarding" on the open road, where he makes sure he's driving behind someone else so that he doesn't take the hit if an oncoming foreign driver crosses the centre line.

Mr Marris lives in Dunedin and often drives to Oamaru. He says he knows of other drivers in the South Island who do the same when driving on tourist routes, particularly on the roads between Queenstown and Cromwell, and between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Karen Rutherford, who survived being struck by a foreign driver while on her horse, says the Government won't act because of the billions of dollars tourism brings into the economy .

She says the three month threshold isn't ideal but the "petitions office has said this is the level where you get things over the line".

Foreign driver test calls backed by 9000-strong petition
(Newshub)

"We're saying this is the bare minimum. After this let's open up the debate about what you do with people when they fly in, whether it's getting rental companies to have compulsory videos and compulsory multi-choice tests, or in-flight videos," she says.

Ms Rutherford says foreign drivers contribute to 6 percent of the road toll.  While New Zealanders are the worst killers on the roads, she says there are safety campaigns targeted at them, but there's nothing for foreign drivers.

The petition was accepted by Winston Peters, who will table it in Parliament by tomorrow, to be considered by a Select Committee.

Mr Peters says the petition isn't anti-foreign, it's simply that foreign drivers should face the same requirements as New Zealand drivers.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he had a huge amount of sympathy but ultimately didn't think changing the rules would save lives.

He said figures showed foreign drivers weren't causing accidents or deaths at levels disproportionate with New Zealand drivers, and the rate of the accidents wasn't going up with tourist numbers.

"The fact that those deaths and serious injuries involving foreign tourists hasn't gone up ... tends to indicate that we shouldn't have knee-jerk reactions to this with policies that haven't been thought through," he said.

Both Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader Andrew Little described the petition's suggestion as impractical.

Mr English said the impracticality was a reason not to implement the proposal, but said it would be investigated by a select committee.

Mr Little suggested an induction at the time a foreign driver picks up a rental car would be a possible alternative.

"I suspect they'll only do it if there's regulation but I think that's the best place, the most effective place to do it," he said.

"The objective is to make sure that drivers, particularly those here from overseas for a short period of time drive as safely as possible and it looks more likely than not that better induction is required and I think that can be put into place without having to pass an act of Parliament."

That could include an online test, rather than complete driver training and testing, he said.

NZN / Newshub.