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Car accidents by Chinese tourists overseas increase

Reporter: Owen Poland 丨 CCTV.com

04-04-2016 06:10 BJT

A big increase in the number of Chinese tourists driving on New Zealand roads has prompted authorities to launch a series of high-profile road safety campaigns to warn about the dangers of driving in foreign countries. 

As CCTV New Zealand correspondent reports, the number of Chinese taking self-drive holidays has doubled over the past two years - and that's led to an increase in accidents.

It's an accident waiting to happen - dash cam video of someone about to crash head-on with a Chinese tourist driving on the wrong side of a back country New Zealand road.

"All international visitors experience New Zealand roads and they're surprised about a few things. One of them is, we drive on the left hand side and a lot of our visitors are used to driving on the right hand side," said Kevin Bowler, CEO of Tourism New Zealand.

Twenty-three people died in 2014 as a result of crashes involving foreign drivers, but New Zealand's Automobile Association says the death toll has to be kept in perspective because only six per cent of accidents are caused by foreign drivers.

"Outside a few popular tourist areas, the rate of crashes among tourists is really no different than the rate of crashes among local drivers," said Barney Irvine from Automobile Association.

Nevertheless, Tourism New Zealand has sponsored a road safety video fronted by Chinese celebrity influencer Huang Lei which has had more than 10,000 thits.

"We think we've had a much safer period on our roads in the last summer than we had in the prior summer when we had a number of quite serious incidents, so we're very confident that we're on the right track," said Bowler.

Common problems include tourists not understanding road signs, and stopping suddenly to take photographs, so the Automobile Association has launched an online driving test to prepare visitors for driving here.

"the idea of course is that people go through the programme before they come to New Zealand so that they're well and truly prepared once they get here," said Irvine.

Based on current projections, the number of Chinese tourists driving around New Zealand each year is expected to treble to more 300 hundred thousand by 2020 - and that's means there'll need to be an even greater focus on road safety"

"Driver safety and communication about driving conditions in New Zealand is going to be a message that we're going to have to continue to convey to the international visitors," said Bowler.

As a result, the Automobile Association is trialling a new campaign in China which provides an information booklet to tourists when they apply for New Zealand visas.

"I think it's really important, and that's not happening at the moment. So, it's obviously a trial, and we're working closely with Tourism New Zealand and Immigration New Zealand to make that happen," said Moira Penman from Automobile Association.

Another concern is the growing number of local 'vigilantes' who take car keys from drivers behaving badly.

"We don't want to see that. That doesn't help anything. The focus here has got to be road safety," said Irvine.

And hopefully all tourists get the message and return home safely.

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