Overseas drivers are no more likely to cause a nasty accident on Queenstown district roads than they were a decade ago.
Last year, foreigners were responsible for 36 fatal and injury crashes, Ministry of Transport stats released to Mountain Scene show.
Back in 2007, they were responsible for 35.
Despite many locals’ perceptions, the figures for fatal and injury crashes involving overseas licence-holders back to 2000 show no general upward trend.
But Rental Vehicle Association New Zealand boss Barry Kidd says there’s “no room for com-placency”.
“While the stats indicate the problem is not increasing dramatically despite the tourism growth, it is still a significant issue in the Queenstown Lakes, as overseas drivers make up a large proportion of vehicles on the roads,” he says.
He says the Visiting Drivers Project – a multi-agency response to the national problem – is having an impact.
“Everyone with an interest in tourism continues to work hard to do their part to help manage the safety of both local and visiting drivers.”
Associate Transport Minister Tim Macindoe says NZ now welcomes three-and-a-half million international visitors a year.
“Over a period where the number [of visitors] has increased by about 45 per cent, the number of crashes involving overseas drivers has remained relatively steady,” he says in an emailed statement.
In 2007, foreign drivers were involved in 42 of the total 130 crashes. In 2016, it was 43 of the total 114.
The other years in the 17-year span are a hotchpotch with no discernible trend.
Some years, the number of foreign drivers at fault are in the mid or high 20s, others in the low teens.
As recently as 2015, for example, they were responsible for just 14 of the 102 crashes that caused an injury or fatality.
The proportion of accidents where they are at fault, compared to those they’re involved in, and the total number, remains relatively steady.
There is, however, no indication of the severity of crashes.
Macindoe says the Visiting Drivers Project, established in 2014, is known as one of the most successful partnerships between industry and the government.
“Partners from central and local government and the private sector have delivered a range of initiatives focused on road safety at every stage of a visitor’s holiday – planning, booking, in-flight, on arrival, and on our roads.”
That includes engineering, passing lanes, ‘keep left’ arrows, rumble strips, new signs, safety barriers and rest areas on key tourist routes in Otago, Southland and the West Coast.
There’s also an education campaign in peak season.
Some $600 million is being spent improving 90 high-risk sites on state highways.