Tourist road safety group meeting

A project aimed at improving road safety for tourists is gathering speed and a governance group is expected to hold its first meeting by the end of the month.

New Zealand Transport Agency southern regional director Jim Harland said the members of the governance group - which would include Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden and NZTA and police representatives - were being finalised and a ''start-up meeting'' is expected to be held by the end of June.

The group would look at all the information gathered to date, including that from a meeting involving about 45 people from the various agencies in Queenstown at the end of April, with a view to identifying ''the key issues and moving towards an action plan''.

Mr Harland said it was hoped the action plan could be ''up and running and under way'' by the end of the year, but any initiatives that could be implemented earlier would be.

These may include seasonal awareness campaigns and working more closely with rental car companies to encourage ''a conversation'' between staff and clients about driving in New Zealand to highlight road signage.

Mr Harland said all rental car companies had that material.

While it was being provided to drivers, some road signs and markings might be unfamiliar - for example, one-way bridges with different-sized arrows to indicate right of way.

National figures provided to the ODT in April by the NZTA showed the number of foreign drivers involved in fatal crashes ranged from 14 to 24 each year over the past decade.

In 2003, 23 foreign drivers were involved in fatal crashes (3.7% of all fatal crashes), while in 2012 the number was 20 (5%).

The figures showed the number of foreign drivers considered to be at fault was rising, from 10 (1.6%) in 2003 to 16 (4%) in 2012.

Mr Harland said it was accepted within the southern region - ''particularly Queenstown and Southland'' - the figures would be higher.

One example of a higher-risk tourist route was State Highway 94 from Gore through Lumsden to Te Anau and Milford Sound, he said.

''We do have some pictures emerging,'' he said.

But trying to reduce the risk was part of the conversation with the governance group.

Mr Harland said while educating tourists was important, local drivers had a ''higher duty of care'' to drive defensively in highly popular tourist areas.

The issue of tourist drivers has made headlines in recent months - most recently after the triple fatality on Saturday near Rakaia.

In a statement yesterday, the NZTA said it urged tourists and recent arrivals to take advantage of the good, free information that was available for them.

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