Tourists seen on wrong side of road

The death of a tourist in a rental car smash on the South Island's West Coast yesterday is the latest in a series of serious crashes involving visitors to the country.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is working with the Ministry of Transport, police, local councils, the Automobile Association and the tourism sector to target tourist hotbeds in the South Island.

But the Government this week has still been accused of failing to do enough to prevent road crashes involving tourists.

Yesterday's crash involved a car being driven by tourists that was seen on the wrong side of the road shortly before it crashed near Dillmanstown.

One woman was killed and another three women in their 20s were seriously injured in the single car crash on State highway 73 at Bell Creek about 5pm yesterday.

A 21-year-old Chinese woman was airlifted by the NZCC Rescue Helicopter to Grey Base Hospital.

West Coast road policing Sergeant David Cross said today that all three survivors remained in hospital.

The rental car involved had been seen driving on the wrong side of the road shortly before the crash, Mr Cross said.

It highlighted again the issue of bad driving and the importance of people reporting such incidents to police.

Road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson is pushing for a ban on tourists being allowed to arrive after long flights and get straight into a rental vehicle.

Mr Cross agreed tourists being able to drive immediately after entering New Zealand was "very contentious".

If drivers knew at the outset they would be "under scrutiny" then they might be more conscientious.

Distance between scenic locations mixed with unfamiliar driving conditions such as driving on the left, was a potent mix.

"It's not uncommon for people to leave Queenstown and hope to get through to Christchurch in a day; that's daft," Mr Cross said.

Police were today speaking to witnesses of the fatal crash. A serious crash investigation was under way and police were liaising to inform next of kin.

Three Hong Kong nationals died in a collision with a truck and trailer unit on State Highway 6 near Luggate, in the Wanaka area on November 6.

Rental van driver Wing Fai Chan, 60, also known as Allan, and two female rear-seat passengers - Kwai Tei Chong, 61, also known as Connie, and Yin Wan Ng, 56 - were all killed.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong national Shu Na Lo, 27, was sentenced for causing a head-on smash on September 30 that killed his mother and seriously injured his sister after he fell asleep at the wheel.

He had just arrived in New Zealand for a holiday, immediately hired a rental car, and embarked on a 250km journey from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo.

Last month, Chinese driver Yichen Sun, 27, whose rental car collided with another vehicle near Queenstown was convicted in what a judge said was a "classic case" of why tourists should sit a driving test.

Also last month, Singapore Airlines pilot Benjamin Yonghao Wu, 32, ran a stop sign during a Lord of the Rings sightseeing road-trip and caused a car crash outside Christchurch that seriously injured colleagues.

Haast Senior Constable Robin Manera said the number of reports he received about bad driving was increasing, in line with increased visitor numbers.

According to NZTA the 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 tourists.




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