As we fleetingly profiled on yesterday’s show, one of New Zealand’s greatest urban legends seems to have been starkly exposed as the hysterical nonsense it always has been.
Tourist drivers are not the monstrous deadly menace they have been made out to be in recent years by an excitable media narrative. With virtually zero tourists in the country, the post-lockdown road toll has not dropped.
Transport Ministry data shows June had the same number of monthly fatal crashes, that the past five years has had, while July is shaping up to be the worst or second worst July for fatalities in the past five years. We are the Kiwi killing machines. We cause the carnage.
And our borders are closed. Admittedly, I have enjoyed tripping through the Mackenzie and Central Otago lately, where many a distracted tourist driver comes a cropper. Without them on the roads, it has made for a more relaxing drive. I’ve become accustomed to driving like a hyper-defensive driver in those parts. I accept that. It goes with the territory in a tourist trap. But a huge amount of work has been invested in enhancing driver safety for the foreign driver in recent years, with centre line rumble strips, keep left signage…you name it.
The bottom line remains that tourist drivers were never the big contributor to our fatality count, that the hysterics and hyperbole made out. They were a convenient scapegoat, while we downplayed our own collective driving defects and glaring imperfections.
The public hysteria was best illustrated by those whipped-up demands for all tourists to be ordered to sit a New Zealand practical driving test before being given the keys to rental. Ridiculous.
Over the past ten years, the Ministry’s crash data shows foreign nationals were involved in three to four per cent of serious or fatal road crashes. And we had four million of them in the country in the past year. When they finally return, post-Covid, hopefully we won’t be so feral or so quick to point the finger of blame.