NZTA supports unsafe driver rental blacklist

The New Zealand Transport Agency supports a blacklist for unsafe tourist drivers and believes there is a way to implement it without breaching the Privacy Act.

Yesterday, a governance group formed to develop a project aimed at improving road safety for tourist drivers launched its first of 42 proposed initiatives - a steering wheel tag detailing key safety messages.

Following the launch, New Zealand Transport Agency southern regional director Jim Harland said the agency supported the proposed blacklist, which was being investigated by the Rental Vehicle Association (RVA).

At present, tourist drivers deemed unsafe on the roads - but who do not meet the criteria required to be charged, enabling police to forbid them to drive - can have their contracts with rental companies cancelled.

However, there is nothing preventing them from hiring a vehicle from another company.

The RVA is investigating forming a blacklist, where information about drivers who had their contracts cancelled could be shared with other members of the association.

However, there appeared to be issues with that proposal because sharing customer information would breach their privacy.

But Mr Harland believed there was a potential solution.

''If the rental agreement said on it, as part of the terms and conditions, `if ... your contract is cancelled then we will be providing that information to all members of the Rental Vehicle Association', I can't see how that would breach the Privacy Act.

''You're using information for the purpose that the user is aware.

''If it can be done, it's something the agency would support.''

While RVA chief executive Barry Kidd said at yesterday's launch some of the news coverage around overseas drivers had been ''a little bit sensational'' and the majority of overseas drivers caused no issues in New Zealand, Mr Harland said statistics for the southern region indicated a very real problem.

In the Southland district, 25% of drivers involved in loss of control and head-on rural crashes resulting in serious or fatal injury held overseas drivers licences.

In Queenstown Lakes they accounted for 22%, 15% in Central Otago and 14% in the Clutha district.

In Dunedin, over the past five years, overseas drivers represented 5%.

''Globally, the number is 4%, which indicates that it is an issue in the southern South Island.''

 

Beware of Stats

Whilst there is clearly an issue with the driving skills of a few tourists, the headline stats need to be regarded with some caution.

Queenstown Lakes,  Central Otago and Clutha District all have very small base (local) populations and high numbers of tourists visiting and passing through. Therefore they will comprise a much larger proportion of all vehicles on the road than in many other areas.

You can then add the large number of seasonal backpacker workers who live in the district who may be here for months to years who often drive on overseas licenses. 

I suspect that, with the odd exception, tourist driving is no worse here than anywhere else in the country, it just that they make up a much larger share of vehicles on these roads. 

A little deeper analysis of those stats would be welcome . . .