The case for foreign drivers being tested


New Zealand First Members of Parliament accepted a petition today from the father of a person who died when they were hit by a foreign driver. As we pass through the busy tourist season where most of New Zealand’s foreign visitors come to our shores, it is a timely reminder of the need to address the safety of non-New Zealanders driving on our roads.

It needs to be said however that New Zealanders are not good drivers on the whole. Statistics show that a crash is as likely to be caused by a local failing to obey the road code as it is by a foreign driver. Simple problems such as lack of patience with slow drivers, failing to give way and running traffic lights are all common causes of crashes.

However, I have a potential solution to the problem:

With buy in from individual rental car companies, it should be possible to set up a common test web page where a person wanting to hire a car can go to complete the test. It would be administered by the Automobile Association of New Zealand. When a person at a rental car website goes to book the car it tells them that they need to take a short driving test, and divert to the page. At the test page, they select their language, nationality and enter their driver license number or equivalent identifier and do the test in that language. If they pass, it gives them a unique code that they enter on the rental car website. At this point they can complete the booking, and the rental car company knows from the outset that they are fit to drive.

I can see the case from both sides. As a vehicle service agent I see a lot of rental cars exiting the service yard of the company I work for, and I or one of my colleagues up at the airport might for all we know be one of the last staff to see a rental car intact – we can only hope once it leaves the airport drop off/pick up area that the car will make it back to the same location intact, but that obviously is not always the case.

On one hand when a customer arrives at a rental car pick up/drop off point, no matter which way they are going, they do not want to be delayed any longer than they absolutely have to be. Thus quite simply, a customer is not going to want to be delayed 20-30 minutes by a driving test. Running the tests, collecting them and marking them are all diverting time from attending to other duties.

It is also true that nor are they going to want to stick around longer than they have to when they drop rental car off. The driver will want to get their luggage out of the car, surrender the key and be gone fast, which means if they were in a prang and it caused damage to the car it could be difficult for staff to get their side of the story before they disappear. No staff member at a rental car company wants to hear about a rental car crash involving one of their company’s fleet vehicles any more than the police, the fire or the ambulance staff who have to attend it and pick up the pieces.

No one is ever going to stop all crashes from happening. But by working with the authorities, it is possible to reduce the number and severity of the crashes.

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