International Press Gets to Hear About NZ’s Anti Tourist Drivers Campaign


dangerous roads

Keeping to your side of the enough may not be enough in NZ (click to load CNN video)

Tourists from China and all over Asia should read this before booking any trip to NZ. Racism, bullying attitude, and poor service are some bad experiences Asians are experiencing in NZ.

Road rage in Middle Earth: New Zealand vigilantes snatch car keys from tourists

By Tim Hume, CNN

Vigilante motorists in New Zealand have taken to snatching the car keys of foreign drivers amid rising concern over dangerous driving by tourists.

New Zealand media have reported five cases this year of locals forcibly taking the keys of foreign motorists after witnessing driving that concerned them.

All the incidents — which have been condemned by authorities — took place in the South Island, which draws tourists from around the world for its rugged scenery, including lakes and mountains featured in director Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films.

The incidents occurred amid heightened public concern over tourist driving standards, with eight people killed in crashes involving foreign drivers in the space of a fortnight last month. Among the dead were a family of four from Hong Kong who were killed when their car crossed the center line and collided with a logging truck.

The key snatchings have even prompted Prime Minister John Key to weigh in on the issue, advising that “people taking the law into their own hands is not sensible.” New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner of Road Policing Dave Cliff said the confiscations existed in a legal gray area, as there was no explicit statute dealing with the issue.

Although there might be exceptional circumstances where taking someone’s keys could be legally justified, such as preventing drunken driving, he said, “in the vast majority of cases, it won’t be.”

“That extends to physically assaulting or abusing someone in response to their driving, which is simply not acceptable, and anyone found doing so should expect to face the consequences,” he said.

‘A safety thing’
Diesel mechanic Robert Penman of Dunedin made headlines last month after he took the keys of a Chinese couple who had stopped their car on a narrow single-lane road to take pictures, causing a backlog of vehicles behind them.

“I was coming into town with my wife and son and came around the corner, and there was a car stopped in the middle of the road,” he told CNN affiliate TVNZ.
He called police and took their keys as “a safety thing, you know, timeframe for police to get there,” he said.

The New Zealand Transport Agency later revealed that Penman was driving on an expired license himself. Penman told local media it was not the first time he had taken a tourist’s car keys.

Problem areas
Only 6% of crashes in New Zealand involve foreign drivers, according to the latest figures provided by the Ministry of Transport.

But in some remote regions of the South Island particularly popular with tourists for their scenery — such as the Mackenzie, Southland, Queenstown-Lakes and Kaikoura districts — foreign drivers are involved in about a quarter of all crashes.

In Westland District, on the South Island’s rugged West Coast, foreign drivers are involved in 37% of road crashes resulting in death or injury.

Tony Kokshoorn, mayor of the neighboring Grey District, said tourist driving behavior was a major problem in the region and attributed the issue to tourists from countries that drive on the right. New Zealanders drive on the left.

“There’s a huge number of tourists coming through to these destinations because of the scenery, but the scenery is a problem,” he said.

“There’s so many beautiful sights to see that they’re not concentrating on their driving. Once they lose their concentration, they tend to fall into old habits and drive on the right. Even for 20 seconds, it can cause damage.”

A Ministry of Transport spokesperson said that while this was a factor, figures showed that Australian and British drivers were involved in the most crashes overall, “so unfamiliarity with which side of the road to drive on is not the only factor.”

Vigilantes ‘disgraceful’
Kokshoorn said that he had seen three cases of tourists driving on the wrong side of the road recently but that the vigilante approach — which had seen a visitor to his town punched in the face as he was stripped of his keys last month — was “disgraceful.”

He said the best approach was better education on local driving conditions for foreign drivers, particularly at the rental companies where they picked up their vehicles. Anyone with a foreign drivers license or permit is able to drive in New Zealand for up to a year.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said the government recognized that “many people are concerned with poor driving behavior on challenging roads in and around popular tourist destinations” and had established a project in response.

The measures include improvements to roading, such as “keep left” signage and no-passing markings on the extensive stretches of single-lane highway, and educational resources targeted at visiting drivers, including many targeting the growing Chinese market.

Kokshoorn said it was important to “strike the right balance” in getting the message to foreign drivers to take care on the unfamiliar roads.

“We value tourism and the dollars it brings to New Zealand, especially to our region here. We don’t want to put tourists off, but we want them to be safe in our country,” he said.

“You cross that center line, and anything’s possible.”

CNN’s David Molko contributed to this report.

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7 thoughts on “International Press Gets to Hear About NZ’s Anti Tourist Drivers Campaign

  1. Based on my above writing on many kiwi drivers not bothering to achieve full licences, breaching restricted and learner licenses conditions and getting away with it, I read today that New Zealand drivers are not much better than foreign drivers in terms of their driving skills.
    There is no excuse for kiwi drivers as they are local and know their own road conditions well. However, foreign drivers do not know about kiwi road conditions at all but still drive almost as good as the average kiwi driver . So before, excessively blaming foreign drivers all the time, kiwi drivers should blame themselves by taking a long hard and honest look of their own driving skills

  2. Many drivers do not even bother to get a full license with no restrictions as it is too difficult and expensive.There are many who remain on and who drive on unsupervised on learners licences for extremely long periods of time time . Many too are permanently on restricted licenses which are too easy to achieve and frequently breach the restricted license conditions like not carrying passengers
    Due to very poor enforcement during daylight hours, they get away with this.

    Their long term unchecked poor and inexperienced driving skills cause the carnage and destruction on our roads

    In my opinion there should be no a restricted licence category. There should only be learner licence and full licence categories. All drivers must complete defensive driving course and including motorway driving skills before getting their full licence.At the moment this is just recommended for full licence achievement but not made mandatory.
    In addition, strict police enforcement is needed to make sure unskilled and poorly skilled drivers are not on the road.

  3. Yes, many foreign drivers do cause trouble on kiwi roads and need to given a short simple written test in my opinion by rental companies and foreigners should only be allowed on the wheel 18 hours( 12 hours not enough for jet lagged tourists) after they land in NZ to avoid remnants of driver fatigue and jet lag.

    However kiwi drivers are even worse. The driving standards among locals is disgusting and they drive as if the road belongs to their grandparents. The worse thing is when they tail gate you or change lane recklessly on the motorways. At speeds of around 100 km/h, assuming a half second reaction time, a car would have travelled almost 14 metres on motorway or at least 3 cars length before you even HIT the brakes. It is so easy to have a collision in these motorway situations.

    Why are kiwi drivers so keen on quickly meeting their creator by driving like this? Is it because NZ has a very high suicide rate ? Or is because kiwis feel the grass is keener in heaven than in New Fraud Zealand?

    Also when you as a foreign or domestic tourist drive a bit slowly on those narrow and winding roads, local kiwi drivers who drive on these dangerous roads all the time and who know the terrain well get so impatient and rude. They totally lack empathy and courtesy towards drivers who are unfamiliar with the terrain. Often, it is difficult to stop and move on the side in order to give way to faster drivers as they is no place to safely stop on the narrow winding roads

    Also why does the media only focus on Asian drivers driving badly and keys taken way from them? From the statistics, it seems that British, Continental and Australian drivers cause most of the accidents not the Asians. This is just pure xenophobia at work in New Fraud Zealand.

    • Some very good points there. I happened to live in Queenstown for a while and I came across many moron drivers, and surprisingly most of them were kiwi inbreds. Also I noticed that the Asian drivers were most aware of their surrounding, because in Asia you do have to. I am from India and I find it a breeze to drive here compared to back home, and I stick to rules and show road etiquette. I believe a lot of it is hogwash and xenophobic batches crying sour, because they live in a cultural backwater. I noticed the same thing in aviation industry, as I fly recreationally and did some mountain flying in the Deep South. I faced some rough sentiments out there, and so much so that one fellow said that you Indians don’t care about safety and because of us having accent, the other pilots couldn’t understand us over the radio. Bullcrap!, while at the same time they didnt mind training Indians droves during the early 2000s aviation boom, because there was money to be made. Let me tell you, at least in India we don’t fly poorly maintained 1960s era aircrafts, which are sold for 30ks on trademe, where literally any farmer with a license can fly and crash them anywhere they want. No wonder the astoundingly high rate of GA accidents in NZ, mostly cause by their number eight wire mentality. Phew! Typical Morons, I am sick of them.

  4. NZ drivers are crazy as trying to blame tourist drivers. Even 25% ratio in the South Island means 75% are locals. What gives them right to take the keys, that is theft and violation and they should be be locked up as criminals.
    I have been flashed few times on a 50 kph zone when driver. Wanted me to let him pass when he was driving over 70 kph . I flashed him back he over took and put on a brake I stopped inches from him, before I can take his number he drove away. I am a kiwi lived in NZ for 10 years, follow every single rule of law.
    I would suggest their keys and license should be taken away before trying to preech to tourist or law abiding citizen like me.

  5. The fact of the matter is that the Kiwis are bad drivers on average. This is statistically proven. The latest seasonal rash of accidents involving tourists – mostly caused by tourists it’s true – is nevertheless being used as an excuse to draw a smokescreen over Kiwi bad driving. Of course, no Kiwi will ever accept that they are bad drivers and need to improve. Yet, there are ten of thousands of Kiwis who have never taken a driving test, still driving on provisional licenses even after as long 20 years. The driving test in New Zealand is a breeze compared to many other countries. The so-called “written” test is a tick box effort because so many people in New Zealand are illiterate or semi-illiterate. Even at that, many Kiwis flunk it, I suspect.

    • I have lived in NZ for 4 years to present & i can confidently report that they are the worst & most dangerous drivers i have ever encountered. I have driven in UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, USA, Ireland. The drivers in Auckland, Wellington are probably the most able drivers in NZ from my experience, probably as a result of the numbers of people driving in these two cities. However, the rest of NZ consists of small isolated towns populated by arrogant, xenophobic inbred examples of humanity & it is in the rest of NZ that you really have to drive defensively. NZ drivers really do not have a clue how to drive safely. New Zealanders are currently stopping foreign tourists when they believe that they are driving incorrectly in NZ & taking their car keys away from them with force! This is further example of the ingrained xenophobic & racist attitudes many New Zealanders have towards citizens from other countries.

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