Tourism is a central part of the economy in New Zealand. People flock from all over the world to see what these shores have to offer, and one of the best ways to pack in as much sightseeing as possible in a relatively short amount of time is the tried and tested road trip.
While this may not be a problem for the vast majority of locally-based casual or even professional drivers, there are actually a growing number of accidents occurring that involve drivers from overseas.
Fleet managers in particular need their operations to run smoothly to ensure that the business maintains its productivity, if they're affected by road closures, or even caught up in an accident, then that can get increasingly difficult.
While there are some things that are certainties out on the road – such as the need to pull over, fill up with petrol and use a fuel card – unpredictability can soon lead to problems.
— News, Views, People. (@NewsViewsPeople) October 6, 2015
A growing issue
There were close to 12,000 injuries as a direct result of road traffic accidents in 2014, according to statistics collated by the Ministry of Transport. Naturally, reducing that figure is centred on the right kind of education for drivers, especially those who may not be used to Kiwi roads.
To that end, the government is set to install a number of new billboards with road safety messages in time for the 'summer rush' of tourists over the next few months.
"The Government is committed to improving safety for all road users, regardless of where they're from. Billboards are a simple yet effective way to get the message across," explained Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss.
New billboards for the West Coast – a simple yet effective way to spread the road safety message http://t.co/YIzzVtYz0h
— Craig Foss (@CraigFossMP) October 8, 2015
The focus on giving tourists a better understanding of road safety across New Zealand established itself last year, after there were a number of high-profile fatal crashes on roads overseas visitors typically flock to.
While tourists only contribute to around 2 per cent of vehicle accidents nationwide, that number skyrockets to 25 per cent around tourism centres such as Queenstown and Wanaka, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Many of the aforementioned billboards will be located in and around areas that are known to be accident blackspots, and form part of the government's wider Visiting Driver Signature Project. As part of that endeavour, authorities have committed $3.2 million to improving road safety over the next three years.
— nzherald (@nzherald) January 21, 2015
China is currently one of New Zealand's most popular tourist markets, with the country's economy meaning that its burgeoning middle class is seeking the opportunity to travel like never before. In an effort to get Chinese tourists on board with the road safety message, the Kiwi government has enlisted the help of reality television star Huang Lei.
Overseas drivers need to know the risks of driving on New Zealand's roads.
In a public service announcement style video, Mr Lei informs overseas drivers of some of the dangers of New Zealand's roads – if they aren't taken seriously.
"Huang Lei has the ability to reach a massive audience in China where he has over 20 million social media followers. The benefit of using someone like Huang Lei is that he will get noticed and his genuine concern for the safety of his family and of others on the road sends a powerful message," explained Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett.
Ultimately, while the government is doing all it can to better educate drivers from at home and abroad to road safety issues, there is no one solution that will reduce the crash statistics.
While individuals should take more care, fleet managers can ensure that their drivers know where accident blackspots are, or even send them out on the roads at less congested times if the business' schedule allows for it.