Increasing road safety: What we can learn from across ‘The Ditch’ | video, photos

Summer is here and arriving with the sunshine are hoards of international tourists ready to explore the Great Ocean Road.

Peak tourist season increases the risk of road carnage as visitors, many from overseas, get behind the wheel. Limited driving experience can have tragic consequences, as horror crashes this year have shown.

Across “The Ditch”, New Zealand is battling similar problems, particularly on its tourism-heavy South Island where winding roads, long journeys and visitors used to driving on the right have combined in a fatal mix.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) launched its Visiting Drivers Project in 2014 and has developed a range of initiatives focusing on each stage of a visitor’s holiday – planning, booking, in-flight, arriving in New Zealand, and actually driving the roads.

Initiatives include:

  • Tourism New Zealand and other tourism partners are upskilling operators overseas to help people understand what it’s like to drive in New Zealand and an idea of journey times.
  • Air New Zealand has developed a driving In New Zealand app and has video content on driving in New Zealand in a range of languages.
  • Rental car companies are trained to undertake enhanced checks and provide safety information.
  • More than 170 kilometres of rumble strips, 2200 kilometres of highway marked with keep left arrows, 140 kilometres of no-passing markings and 15 traffic courtesy signs to encourage slower drivers to let traffic pass have been installed. 
  • There have been rest area and signage upgrades, curve signage improvements and advertising billboards. 
  • NZ Police has a visible presence during peak holiday season and have access to a resource on their handheld devices to explain key road safety concerns in 11 languages.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said the main angle of the summer 2016-17 campaign was “New Zealand roads are different”.

“The campaign focuses on the Visiting Drivers Project areas of Otago, Southland and the West Coast, and uses billboards, posters, digital advertising and social media to spread road safety messages,” he said.

The messages were tested in six target markets — Australia, Germany, China, United States of America, United Kingdom and India — with people planning to visit New Zealand.

Statistics show overseas licence holders were at fault in an average of 13 fatal crashes in New Zealand per year out of an average annual total of 274.

They were more likely to crash in early to mid-afternoon, but less likely to be affected by alcohol or drugs.

– with


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