25 Feb 2017

Schools told to watch for driver fatigue

12:44 pm on 25 February 2017

Schools have been given new guidelines to have an awake observer watching drivers for signs of fatigue on trips.

An empty stretch of road in New Zealand's South Island, with mountains and a lake in the background

File photo of New Zealand's South Island: Officials have told schools to have awake observers to help prevent crashes on school trips. Photo: 123RF

A coroner has identified driver fatigue as a factor in the deaths of an Australian student and teacher in a crash near Rotorua in late 2014.

Andre Vogel, 36, died at the scene along with 16-year-old passenger Gabriel Runge when their van collided head-on with a milk tanker.

The pair were travelling as part of a larger group from Queensland on a school trip to New Zealand, which included a visit to Taupō and several hikes in the central North Island.

Coroner Wallace Bain said it appeared Mr Vogel had fallen asleep moments before the crash.

He said extreme care was needed when several days of hiking were followed by road trips.

The ministry's spokesperson, Katrina Casey, said it had issued a new request for schools to consider an awake observer on trips.

"What we've done is to say that it would be our guidance, and it would be sensible, if there was at least one other adult in the car who could notice if a driver was getting too tired, and might suggest that the driver has a break."

It was something often done on long family trips and would help keep children on school trips safe too, she said.