Demand for tougher foreign driver rules

Helen Carnell with grandson Zeb Carnell, left, and son Shane Carnell holding Zeb's daughter Aurora. Photo: Stuff/Supplied.

Helen Carnell was a model driver whose life was cut short in a crash involving a tourist driver, her grieving grandson says.

The 80-year-old meals-on-wheels volunteer’s loved ones want the government to clamp-down on untutored tourist drivers, who the family say exact a heavy death toll on New Zealand roads.

Carnell was farewelled on Saturday at her Tauranga funeral by mourning friends and family, grandson Zeb Carnell says.

On Tuesday, Helen Carnell’s car was allegedly struck by a foreign motorist driving on the wrong side of the road on State Highway 1, at Wellsford in north Auckland.

Police confiscated the male driver’s passport, says Zeb.

The great-grandmother died at the scene, while a male and a female were hospitalised in Auckland Hospital with moderate injuries, police say.

Police have refused to disclose the motorist’s nationality and say no charges have been laid.

"Every week on the news there’s always people on the bloody wrong side of the road, it’s always a foreigner," says Zeb.

"There should be some sort of test when they come in to the country to make sure foreign drivers are safe."

His grandmother was blameless, and police had ruled-out any medical problems, he says.

Helen Carnell had been driving through Wellsford returning to Tauranga after visiting a Dargaville friend during Easter weekend.

"Grandma was the funniest, nicest person you’d ever meet, she never had a bad thing to say about anyone.

"She never made it back home.”


So far this year there have been several cases of foreign drivers being involved in serious crashes on New Zealand roads.

On Friday 21-year-old American Reiss Berger pleaded not guilty in Kaikohe District Court to two counts of careless driving causing death and three of causing injury, RNZ reported. The charges related to the deaths of Yvarn Tepania and James Hamiora following a head-on collision in Kerikeri.

The same weekend Helen Carnell died, an Australian man was charged with six counts of careless driving causing injury over a three-car pile-up near Matamata in the Waikato which injured seven people including one critically.

Three tourists were also left stranded between Wairoa and Gisborne after an angry driver confiscated their car keys after their vehicle was spotted repeatedly crossing the centre line.

In 2017 teen German tourist Felix Eisele, who had barely driven in New Zealand, killed his best friend after he pulled into the path of a truck.

That same year New Caledonian Jeff Tau Viriamu​ crossed the centre line at Piarere, near Tirau colliding head-on with Hamilton resident Alysia Jade Kelly’s car killing her.

In 2015 an inquest found Hong Kong tourist Wing Fai Chan’s driving killed himself, his wife and their friend after the van he was driving slammed into a truck near Wanaka in Central Otago.

Data analysed in 2015 by Stuff indicates foreign drivers are disproportionately represented in crash statistics.

NZTA data which was used in the analysis showed between 2005 and 2014, foreign licence holders were at fault or partly at fault in 85.3 per cent of all crashes they were involved in on New Zealand roads.

In that time period, foreign drivers have been responsible for one in every 12 fatal crashes in the South Island.

Ministry of Transport mobility and safety manager Simon Johnston says preliminary 2017 crash data showed around seven per cent of crash deaths were the fault of overseas drivers - the same average for the past five years.

"Over 3.5 million international visitors arrive in New Zealand each year, while international visitor numbers have increased by about 45 per cent over the past 10 years.

"The increase in the overall number of road deaths last year cannot be explained by an increase in overseas drivers."


Police say all drivers on New Zealand roads are treated in the same manner by police regardless of whether they hold a New Zealand driver licence or an overseas driver licence.

Drivers who witness dangerous driving should call 111 so police can respond in a timely manner.

Motorists are not encouraged to take matters into their own hands, instead they should report the behaviour to police immediately.  

 - Stuff



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