Rental car ‘blacklist’ trial for Queenstown

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Dangerous tourist drivers whose rental vehicle contracts have been torn upwill be blacklisted in a Queenstown trial to prevent them from getting back behind the wheel.

A ‘shared information network’ between the rental vehicle and tourism industry associations will alert companies about problem drivers.

A meeting will be held in Queenstown next month to look at how the network could work.

The regional blacklist would prevent the highest-risk drivers hiring another vehicle, Rental Vehicle Association (RVA) chairman Barry Kidd says.

”We’re trying to close the loop.

”What we’re thinking is those people are probably in the country for a relatively short period of time.

”The immediate risk is … they’ll pick up a rental vehicle from somewhere else.”

Kidd says the initiative will be trialled in Queenstown for up to six months and could be rolled out nationally.

Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden says information-sharing between rental car companies in the resort is a “huge step” forward.

“I think it’s a great thing,” she says.

“Here’s an organisation … stepping up and saying, ‘We’ve got a role to play in this’ rather than it being a government or local government responsibility.”

However, Van Uden says it’s important the community at large does not vilify tourist drivers.

“We have to be patient – these are our guests. They take their time, they’re looking around, they’re trying to find out where to go and yes, we do get impatient [but] we want them here.

“Let’s not make them feel like they’re going to be attacked … we don’t want to get a reputation as a place where you are not welcome if you’re driving a car.”

In August, the Otago Daily Times reported the RVA was investigating establishing the blacklist.

At present, tourist drivers deemed unsafe – but who do not meet the criteria required to be charged, enabling police to forbid them to drive – can have their contracts with rental companies cancelled.

But there is nothing preventing them from hiring a vehicle from another company.

Concerns that sharing information could breach the Privacy Act appear to be unfounded, Kidd says.

There was no central reporting of the number of contracts that had been torn up, but anecdotally it happened about twice a week and the majority of the issues appeared to be in Queenstown.

A driver from Australia had his rental contract torn up last Sunday after a member of the public stopped him on the Lindis Pass and took the vehicle’s keys.

The driver was charged with dangerous driving and was summonsed to appear in the Alexandra District Court on Wednesday.

A website designed to tell visitors how to drive safely in New Zealand was launched yesterday.

DriveSafe.org.nz, translated into Mandarin and German, was developed by the Tourism Industry Association with support from other industry groups.

Translations into more languages are planned.

The website is one of the initiatives under the visiting drivers signature project, part of the Government’s Safer Journeys Action Plan.

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts says it provides basic information about road rules and etiquette, along with links to more detail about everything overseas drivers unfamiliar with New Zealand roads needed to know.

Otago Daily Times