Rental car firms back tri­als

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By HANNAH cLEOD AND GE­OR­GIA WEAVER

Tri­als of a new driver as­sess­ment scheme aimed at im­prov­ing the safety of over­seas and New Zealand driv­ers will start next month.

The move aims to ac­tively ad­dress con­cerns over the safety of vis­it­ing driv­ers and in­cludes ac­tions such as in­creased screen­ing of driver ex­pe­ri­ence at ve­hi­cle pick up, more pre-ar­rival in­for­ma­tion about New Zealand driv­ing con­di­tions, and tri­alling more in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing be­tween rental ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tors about vis­i­tors whose con­tracts have been can­celled.

The devel­op­ment of the new Code of Prac­tice for rental ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tors fol­lows agree­ment among the lead­ers of about 25 rental ve­hi­cle com­pa­nies rep­re­sent­ing most of the cars and camper­vans hired to in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors in New Zealand.

The trial, which be­gins in June, will fo­cus on en­sur­ing the pro­posed as­sess­ment ques­tions are fit for pur­pose and will be done in four lan­guages – English, Man­darin, French and Ger­man.

South­ern stake­hold­ers have wel­comed the move. Tourism In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Roberts said it was very pleas­ing the rental ve­hi­cle sec­tor was com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing public con­cerns about vis­it­ing driver safety.

‘‘The in­di­ca­tions are that we can ex­pect a bumper tourism sea­son next sum­mer, so we want to do all we can to keep both our vis­i­tors and New Zealan­ders safe on our roads,’’ he said.

It was hoped the Code of Prac­tice would be fi­nalised by Oc­to­ber in readi­ness for the 2015-16 peak sea­son.

Roll­out of the trial has been met favourably by po­lice and tourism heads in the south, where, ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Trans­port fig­ures, 25 per cent of fa­tal and in­jury crashes be­tween 2009 and 2013 in­volved for­eign driv­ers.

This com­pared with six per cent na­tion­ally.

Ven­ture South­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Cas­son said any project to en­hance the safety of south­ern roads could only be pos­i­tive.

‘‘It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what this as­sess­ment will be,’’ he said.

He was aware of some re­minders for tourists about road safety al­ready in ac­tion.

‘‘Last week I saw a car parked in a Te Anau with a mas­sive green sticker on the dash which said ‘keep left’,’’ he said.

He be­lieved it was crit­i­cal that more in­struc­tions for tourists who drove on our roads came into play, but warned it needed to be easy to un­der­stand, and any tests should not be too oner­ous.

South­ern Dis­trict road polic­ing manager Se­nior Sergeant Steve Lark­ing said the code of prac­tice was a pos­i­tive move by rental car op­er­a­tors to make roads safer.

Ad­dress­ing road safety among for­eign driv­ers has long been an is­sue in South­land.

Late last year po­lice rolled out Op­er­a­tion Rental which fo­cused on work­ing with car rental com­pa­nies to ed­u­cate vis­i­tors about south­ern roads and re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple driv­ing dan­ger­ously.

As part of that op­er­a­tion, 20,000 safety travel tags were tri­alled in Queen­stown that at­tached to rental car steer­ing wheels.

It pro­vided the vis­i­tors with ba­sic road safety mes­sages, such as keep­ing to the left-hand side of the road.

The trial was con­sid­ered a suc­cess with 70 per cent of driv­ers say­ing they found it help­ful.

In Fe­bru­ary, 21 driv­ers from at least eight coun­tries were caught break­ing the law on Fiord­land roads in just three hours.

The Code of Prac­tice builds on the ex­ten­sive work al­ready done to ed­u­cate vis­it­ing driv­ers on what’s dif­fer­ent about driv­ing in New Zealand.

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