Work well underway to improve the safety of visiting drivers


A broad package of initiatives designed to improve the safety of visiting drivers, and those they share the road with, is well underway.

The Visiting Drivers Project is delivering road safety programmes aimed at each stage of a visitor’s holiday – when they’re planning their trip, booking it, in-flight, arriving in New Zealand, and when they are driving on our roads. The project is being delivered by a cross-sector partnership between government and the transport and tourism industries.

“There is no single solution, or single organisation that can improve road safety for visitors and others on the road. It takes a range of organisations working together across all parts of the system including roads and roadsides, speed, vehicles and road use,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Southern Regional Director, Jim Harland.

“The visiting driver initiatives(external link) are strengthening all parts of the system and complement each other to collectively achieve a bigger impact.”

The number of international visitors coming to New Zealand over the last ten years has increased by about 30 per cent, and is continuing to grow, with three million people visiting in the past twelve months. However the number of crashes(external link) involving overseas licence holders has stayed relatively constant or decreased over the last 10 years. In 2014 overseas drivers were involved in but not necessarily at fault in, 16 fatal crashes and 536 injury crashes. In the same year there were 268 fatal crashes on New Zealand roads in total and more than 8600 injury crashes. However any crash on our roads is one too many and that’s why so many different organisations are taking action to reduce the risk for all road users.

Pre-departure initiatives include Tourism New Zealand’s road safety training module for overseas travel agents to help them better inform their clients about alternative travel options and what to expect if they choose to drive in New Zealand; a road safety leaflet to accompany Chinese visitor visas via Immigration New Zealand; link) to help educate visiting drivers when they’re planning their trip and also on arrival and during their journey; and making changes to Google Maps travel times to be more reflective of our roads.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says we have a unique opportunity to reach people at the stage when they are still planning their holiday.  “The online training module we developed for overseas travel agents has now been completed by more than 2000 agents and is available in seven languages. It is a great resource that helps travel agents provide informed, reliable advice to people planning to drive in New Zealand.”

Air New Zealand has created a ‘Driving in New Zealand’ app which is available on long-haul flights and it’s screening videos on driving in New Zealand, in a range of languages, on all international flights. “This gives visitors another opportunity to engage with safe driving information before they get in a vehicle here,” says Jim Harland.

On arrival, rental vehicle operators and accommodation providers are the face-to-face points of contact. Initiatives already rolled out include the Tourism Industry Association and Rental Vehicle Association’s Code of Practice for rental vehicle operators, which recommends a range of activities including enhanced checks when people are renting vehicles, and providing safety information in vehicles. Accommodation providers have access to the Tourism Industry Association’s toolkit which gives them information and resources to have a road safety conversation with visitors.

On the ground, the Visiting Driver Project has a specific focus in Otago, Southland and the West Coast where international visitors make up a significantly large proportion of the traffic in summer. The Transport Agency’s work there to improve the highest risk roads and roadsides is ongoing and will benefit all road users.

In Otago and Southland 50 kilometres of rumble strips are being added, along with 950 kilometres of highway marked with ‘keep left’ arrows, 140 kilometres of ‘no-passing’ markings and 16 traffic courtesy signs to encourage slower drivers to let traffic pass.  On the West Coast there will be 50 kilometres of centre line rumble strips installed along with twelve billboards with ‘keep left’, safer speeds and fatigue messaging.

NZ Police will have a visible presence on certain key tourist routes. Acting National Manager Road Policing, Inspector Pete McKennie says Police are aware of the concerns regarding visiting drivers, but the percentage of visiting drivers who have difficulties on our roads is very low and when they do crash it is normally for the same reasons as New Zealand drivers. “If anyone witnesses unsafe driving behaviour they should contact Police. In the meantime, we’re working closely with the transport and tourism sectors across a range of initiatives to help ensure safe travel for all road users.”

“People make mistakes, whether they’re from New Zealand, or overseas. Our challenge with this project is to design the ‘system’ with our tourism partners to protect all road users so that if they make a mistake the chance of them being killed or seriously injured is significantly reduced,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Jim Harland.

“Part of that is about being responsible hosts and helping our visitors access information to make safe choices and then protecting them if they do make a mistake. That’s what the Visiting Drivers Project is all about.”

For further information, including more facts about visiting drivers and details of what’s being done to improve their safety, please visit: link)

Visiting Drivers Project Partners:

  • NZ Transport Agency
  • Ministry of Transport
  • New Zealand Police
  • Queenstown Lakes District Council
  • Southland District Council
  • Buller District Council
  • Grey District Council
  • West Coast Regional Council
  • Westland District Council
  • Environment Southland
  • Automobile Association
  • Rental Vehicle Association
  • Tourism Industry Association NZ
  • Tourism New Zealand
  • Tourism Holdings Ltd

For more information please contact:

Anthony Frith
NZ Transport Agency
Acting Media Manager
04 894 5251 / 027 213 7617

Ross Henderson
NZ Police
Media Manager
021 192 2919

Trish Green
Tourism New Zealand
Senior Communications Advisor
021 243 0386

Ann-Marie Johnson
Communications Manager
Tourism Industry Association New Zealand
04 496 5001 / 027 600 4565

Rental Vehicle Association
04 499 7334