Support for more training of overseas drivers

For Canadian visitor Anne Marie Barakar, the idea of tighter licensing requirements for overseas drivers seems like a good idea.

Supporting more training: Canadian visitor Anne Marie Barakar, left, with Australian relatives Rachelle Abouchedid, Daniel Seaton and Doumith Abouchedid at Tower Hill.

Supporting more training: Canadian visitor Anne Marie Barakar, left, with Australian relatives Rachelle Abouchedid, Daniel Seaton and Doumith Abouchedid at Tower Hill.

Ms Barakar, 33, who was visiting Tower Hill with Australian relatives, said she did not feel safe driving on Australian roads because she drove on the other side of the road in Canada.

The closest she has come to driving in Australia was in a car park and her unfamiliarity with the car’s layout and Australian road rules persuaded her to leave the driving in Australia to her Australian relatives.

Ms Barakar was one of a number of three overseas visitors interviewed by The Standard at Tower Hill about the call for tighter licensing requirements with all three backing the move.

The call by federal Member for Corangamite Sarah Ferguson and state Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan follows a spate of accidents in the south-west involving overseas tourists.

On Saturday a passenger received minor injuries in an accident near Princetown when a vehicle, which was driven by a foreign driver, veered off the Great Ocean Road. In another accident on Boxing Day, a man from Batesford, near Geelong, was killed in a collision near Birregurra with another vehicle driven by a foreign national.

Mr Riordan said 22 per cent of accidents in recent times in the south-west involved foreign nationals, which meant they were a significant risk factor.

German visitor Carolin Strakeljahm also agreed with tighter licensing checks for international drivers.

Ms Strakeljahm said it was very easy to get an international driver’s licence for Australia but drivers should be given more instruction about Australian road rules.

She said she had been taught the Australian road rules by a friend in Australia, which had been really helpful.

“It would be good at the start for someone to explain the different rules and to get a paper that explains the different road signs,” Ms Strakeljahm said.

Indian-born New Zealand citizen Gurmeet Bhabra said car rental companies were “too lax” and allowing inexperienced international drivers to drive on Australian roads.

“I know a lot of people, even from India, who should have been properly vetted,” he said

“Licences are easy to obtain. People get licences in the mail without a test,” Mr Bhabra said.

He said New Zealand had a similar problem with overseas tourists not know the local road rules.

While there was an effort to educate people and to put signs on roads directed at drivers from overseas, some tourists were not careful enough, Mr Bhabra said.