Road signs could feature safety messages in foreign languages in an effort to reduce the number of crashes involving overseas drivers on New Zealand roads. The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has ordered electronic signs and is investigating ways of translating key messages as tourists continue to feature in a disproportionate number of road accidents in Westland, Southland and Otago.
German and Mandarin are the main languages in consideration. The Europeans rank third behind Australians and the Britons for tourist driver numbers in New Zealand. The growing Chinese market is fourth.
The percentage of fatal and serious injury car accidents caused by tourists has hovered around 6 per cent nationwide since 2001. In popular tourist destinations, the ratio is considerably higher. The South Island accounts for 41 per cent for all crashes that involve overseas drivers. In the tourist driver-heavy Westland and Queenstown-Lakes districts the ratios were 38 and 25 per cent respectively.
By comparison, just 5 per cent of crashes in Auckland between 2010-14 involved overseas drivers.
NZTA research estimated 25 per cent of foreign drivers underestimated journey times on Kiwi roads so the signs could include estimated driving times, not just the distance to be travelled. NZTA is also doubling the frequency of "keep left" arrows from 5km intervals to 2.5km on some lower South Island roads. It is also working on a pilot programme where "keep left" signs are posted as a reminder when exiting a tourist attraction.
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