15 May 2015

Tourist drivers to undergo assessments

7:00 am on 15 May 2015

From next month, foreign drivers renting vehicles from some companies will have to undergo an assessment before being given the keys.

Melanie Pipson

Photo: 123RF

The new code of practice, to be trialled by 25 rental companies, is aimed at ensuring tourists are properly educated and assessed before hiring out a car.

The drivers will have to fill out a questionnaire and could be asked to do a trial drive if the hire company is not satisfied with their answers.

The Tourism Industry Association developed the code along with rental car and campervan companies such as Avis, Europcar, and the owner of the Maui and KEA campers.

The initiative comes after car keys were taken from tourists at least five times over summer, by people concerned about their erratic and dangerous driving.

Associate Minister of Transport Craig Foss said he welcomed the new code, as a consistent assessment between the rental car companies was needed.

"There has been concern that some visitors to New Zealand weren't getting triaged consistently, if you like, or they didn't have information about the conditions of New Zealand roads or someone who had been turned down would go to another rental company."

Mr Foss said the code was expected to be finalised in October, for the peak tourist season in the summer months.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts said it was really about getting the public on side.

"The media coverage over the last six months or so has shown is that we have to take New Zealander along with us. We want New Zealanders to be supportive or the Tourism Industry."

The usual practice was for a person to hand over their drivers licence and pay before being given the keys, but with this new code, they would need to complete a questionnaire first.

Mr Roberts said nowhere else in the world had such a code been trialled.

He said the questionnaire would be made up by yes or no questions.

"How familiar they are with our road rules, have they driven overseas before, are they prepared to drive in this country, have they driven on the left-hand-side of the road before.

"And that sort of information will help the rental vehicle company assess how much information, how much checking of that driver needs to be done before they get the keys."

Mr Roberts said it was up to each operator whether they refused to hand over the keys or make the tourist undergo a trial drive around the car park based on the answers.

Rental Vehicle Association chief executive Barry Kidd said the code would likely evolve further as a result of the feedback from operators involved with the trial.

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