Foreign drivers are being given a crash-course in road safety with a new simulator in Queenstown to help reduce accidents across the country.
GO Rentals is the first car rental company to take the driving simulator to market.
It’s the product of more than three years of hard work by Dunedin-based developers CoDrivr.
The innovative piece of kit is now available for use at GO Rentals’ Frankton office after being unveiled yesterday.
The man behind the invention, New Zealand Rally Championship driver Rhys Gardner, says it is rewarding to see the simulator in use.
“Our programmes are getting pretty realistic.
“It’s obviously a balance of making it driveable but still challenging so that we can really get good data.
“We are looking for partners and we think the Government has a role in helping with this as well.”
The simulator is designed to give rental car drivers a realistic on-road experience to allow them to improve their skills before driving on some of New Zealand’s challenging roads.
It’s not compulsory for overseas drivers to use the simulator when renting a car, but they will be offered the chance to do so and can fill out a questionnaire to determine what they’ve learned before taking a car out on the road.
Users have the chance to practise driving on routes such as the Crown Range Rd.
The project is independently funded and Mr Gardner says he is looking for other funding options.
He says learner drivers can also benefit from the simulator and highlights the high rate of teenage crashes in the country.
Although the project is aimed at rental car users, GO Rentals general manager James Dalglish says the simulator can also benefit New Zealand driving licence holders looking to travel on more challenging routes.
“It’s a great piece of Kiwi innovation.
“There could be some fantastic benefits across many industries.”
Dalglish says for overseas drivers, adjusting to New Zealand’s roads can be a “formidable experience”.
Ministry of Transport data from the 2017 Overseas Driver Crashes Report shows people with an overseas driving licence were involved in 24 fatal traffic crashes in 2016, making up 8 per cent of all fatal crashes that year.
There were also 114 overseas drivers involved in crashes resulting in serious injuries and 506 involved in minor injury crashes in 2016.
Gardner says missing a stop sign when using the simulator might be scary, but there is zero risk involved.
“Driving straight through a stop sign in real life can easily be fatal.”
Barry Kidd, CEO at the Rental Vehicle Association (RVA) of New Zealand, says the simulator
will “better prepare drivers”.
“The RVA welcomes the addition of GO Rentals simulator, which complements other driver safety initiatives the industry has in place to make overseas drivers aware of new driving conditions and rules.”
Simulators will be installed at other GO Rentals branches across the country over the next six to 12 months.