Group lobbies for tourist drivers to display 'T Plates'


The high rate of accidents involving tourist drivers is prompting calls for them to be made to display 'T Plates' on their windscreens.

The self-proclaimed 'movement', 'T Plates for Tourists', was started after its founder had a personal experience involving a visiting driver.

The man, who wanted to be known only as Josh, said a lot of tourists simply aren't prepared for New Zealand's rough roads, especially outside cities.

"People who come to this country are given the right to drive despite many of them not knowing our driving rules or regulations -- hence the number of crashes that occur on our roads."

According to data from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), overseas drivers contributed to 7 percent of crashes resulting in injury or death in an average February - the worst month -- between 2006 and 2013.

However, tourist drivers made up less than 1 percent of total traffic in that same period.

Josh says there isn't enough being done to address the figures.

"I think there should be a test for tourists to sit like our learners test that is compulsory for anyone who wants to drive in this country. Following passing this test they could receive a T plate which would allow other drivers to know the dangers."

In 2015 the Rental Vehicle Association, the Tourism Industry Association and various rental companies developed a code of practice to help better screen overseas drivers before they rent vehicles.

Tourists are asked to answer yes or no to a few safety-related questions before they are issued their vehicle:

If the rental company feels uncertain about the visitor's answers, they then have the right to not hand over the keys.

However, Josh says the questions are geared more towards keeping their cars safe rather than protecting other drivers on the roads.

AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen says the T Plate idea could be feasible for rental vehicles, but wouldn't cover the large number of visiting drivers who borrow from family or friends.

"In terms of visitors coming to NZ, a big number don't rent vehicles. There will be a big portion of visiting drivers that this wouldn't apply to."

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss says T plates are not currently being considered by the Government because, despite a high number of deaths last year, the rate of crashes is falling.

"We know the number of crashes involving overseas licence holders has stayed relatively constant over the last 10 years when the number of international visitors has increased by about 30 percent."

Last year, the NZTA injected $25 million into boosting driver safety initiatives.

The funding was to go towards state highway and local government projects as well as a social marketing programme.

The 'T Plates for tourists' petition will be presented to Parliament once it gets 5000 signatures.