Is the price too high?

New Zealand Classic Car - - CONTENTS -

Last month I wrote query­ing if any­thing could be done to re­duce the car­nage on our roads, es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to past crit­i­cism re­gard­ing the abil­ity of tourists to dis­em­bark a long-haul flight, jump straight into a rental ve­hi­cle and head off into the New Zealand road sys­tem. Over the re­cent Christ­mas break, four more over­seas tourists died in three sep­a­rate crashes in the South Is­land — in one case the tourists were re­port­edly speed­ing be­fore crash­ing into the rail­ing of a one-way bridge, hav­ing only rented their ve­hi­cle just min­utes ear­lier.

In one of the worst ex­am­ples I can re­call, one such tourist jumped into a rental car hired from one com­pany and promptly drove it into a ditch in the early hours of the morn­ing, just min­utes from the air­port. Many in­com­ing tourist flights ar­rive around mid­night in Christchurch, and this fel­low, hav­ing pranged one rental car, tried to rent an­other from the same com­pany but was (quite rightly) de­nied a sec­ond ve­hi­cle. The same fel­low then ap­proached an­other rental firm, got him­self a re­place­ment car and headed off South. A few hours down the road he ig­nored a com­pul­sory stop sign, and three peo­ple were killed in the en­su­ing crash.

The area where the crash oc­curred is a much-trav­elled sec­tion of a south Can­ter­bury road, fa­mous for its straight­ness — also popular for speedsters. The po­lice reg­u­larly get their quota of apprehensions just on this sec­tion of road alone. I don’t know if this crash fea­tured in the ‘tourist ac­ci­dent’ statis­tics or not, but it should have. If noth­ing else, it should have been for no other rea­son than there needs to be a process for such tourists to be iden­ti­fied and pre­vented from rent­ing an­other ve­hi­cle, hav­ing al­ready had a crash less than four hours af­ter ar­riv­ing in this coun­try!

On that note, I was pleased to learn that, as part of an NZTA ini­tia­tive — Vis­it­ing Driv­ers — po­lice can and do con­fis­cate the keys of rental ve­hi­cles at the road­side when the driv­ers have been iden­ti­fied by other mo­torists, via the *555 con­tact, as driv­ing dan­ger­ously. In fact, since July 2014 po­lice have con­fis­cated the keys to 10 rental ve­hi­cles, with the agree­ment of the rental com­pa­nies con­cerned. In each of th­ese in­stances re­ports had been re­ceived of the driv­ers car­ry­ing out po­ten­tially deadly driv­ing ma­noeu­vres, in­clud­ing fail­ure to keep left and high-risk over­tak­ing.

Tourist Trap

Na­tion­ally, tourist-driver at-fault crashes are ap­par­ently de­creas­ing — this is not the case in the south, if re­ports are to be be­lieved. Ac­cord­ing to a NZ Her­ald re­port dated July 7, 2014, nearly 600 crashes na­tion­wide that re­sulted in in­jury were caused by over­seas vis­i­tors! Ac­cord­ing to NZTA, the West Coast av­er­aged eight deaths and 43 se­ri­ous in­juries on the roads per year over the five years to 2011 — with at least a third of those in­volv­ing tourists. So, us­ing my fin­gers and toes for a mo­ment, tourists were in­volved in just over 33 per cent of death and/or in­jury crashes on the West Coast alone.

The most re­cent in­for­ma­tion I have re­ceived is that a pro­posal has been made that rental ve­hi­cles should all be painted a dis­tinct colour. That’ll prob­a­bly never hap­pen — in the US in the early ’90s, rental ve­hi­cles could be iden­ti­fied by their reg­is­tra­tion plates and they promptly be­came the tar­get for car hi­jack­ings, so the ini­tia­tive was aban­doned. Rental camper­vans are vul­ner­a­ble enough now with­out any ad­di­tional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, and I would ex­pect that pro­fes­sional renters such as busi­ness­men and women would not want to be seen driv­ing a bright-pink rental car!

Judg­ing by the statis­tics and the re­cent Christ­mas-hol­i­day road­toll fig­ures, tourists are still caus­ing crashes, but at last NZTA is work­ing with NZ Po­lice and rental com­pa­nies to try to lower the crash rate. Hope­fully, some­thing con­crete will come from the in­ter-or­ga­ni­za­tional co­op­er­a­tion, and the amount of rev­enue tourists gen­er­ate isn’t al­lowed to in­ter­fere with the for­mu­la­tion of po­ten­tial so­lu­tions.

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