5 May 2015

Compulsory test call for overseas drivers

10:31 am on 5 May 2015

Road safety workshops are being held for drivers new to New Zealand, partly because of a number of recent high-profile crashes, some fatal, involving migrants or foreign visitors.

Melanie Pipson

Photo: 123RF

About 30 people attended the first session in Auckland, and heard presentations on driving basics, how to get a licence, the insurance system and the rules around child carseats. The workshops are the brainchild of the Auckland Regional Migrant Services.

Ethnic liason officer for Auckland police Rob Stanton started with the basics.

"Staying left. It seems quite a simple instruction, right? We even put these lines here so that you know which side you've got to be on, but people go across those lines all the time."

Some people came to clarify rumours they'd heard about driving, including Vince Reyes, who arrived from the Philippines about a year ago.

He wanted to know how much you can go over speed limits before you are stopped.

"I'm aware of the speed limit but ... I heard, that especially in holidays, they make some allowances for the speed limits.

"At least now I am aware that it should never be like that. The speed limit - we have to follow it."

Driver information for recent arrivals to New Zealand.

Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Recent Sri Lankan arrival Thivisha Gowrishankar said the most important thing to her was learning about child safety seats.

"We very recently migrated here, so in our country it's different. In our country, we are not even wearing seatbelts even, we are just driving the car, so I want to know that kids' safety (is) first."

Mr Stanton said messages aren't always easy to get out.

"It's always difficult to reach these communities because they're not necessarily going to be accessing mainstream media. Workshops like this allow us to at least get it out into the community.

"We're not going to get everybody, but as long as there's people in those communities, who have this information it will filter down."

No one is required to sit a theory or practical test until they've been in New Zealand for 12 months, and then, people from a list of countries, like the UK and America are exempt.

But one of the workshop organisers, Shiu Goundar, from Fiji, said people coming from countries where they drive on the right should be tested.

"For example, they are coming from America - they should go through this theory and test because they are on different rule(s). And if you see, a lot of accidents are happening from people who are driving on the right hand side.

"Countries which have different roads rules - I think (the tests) should be made compulsory."

He rejected the notion that foreign drivers were bad drivers, but said people new to the country may take some time to adjust.

"A lot of Kiwis who are my friends are talking about it and saying that, 'oh the Asians, you know, they don't know the rules' - they generalise.

"But I know of several of my own friends and colleagues who've come from Fiji and they find it very difficult, and it takes almost a year to adjust your driving habits."

More information about the sessions is available here.

The next sessions:

15 May, Raeburn House, Milford, Auckland

23 May African Welfare Services Centre, Henderson, Auckland

30 May Ormiston Senior College, Flat Bush, Auckland

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