Voices

Driving in New Zealand… and why T-plates might be a good thing

There’s a push for tourists to be required to fit T plates to their hire cars and campers when driving in New Zealand… it might be a good idea.

BACK IN MAY this year, a group in New Zealand was kicking up a stink about tourist drivers being over represented in collisions, and that all tourists hiring a vehicle to drive around the land of the long white cloud should be made to stick a T plate on their car. When I first heard this I couldn’t help but laugh.

I mean think about it, will sticking a T plate onto a car driven by a tourist really help prevent a collision? Nope. Only it might.

See, I’ve literally just climbed off the plane from New Zealand where I spent a week driving around the South Island. My wife and I did all of the touristy things. We drove to Milford Sound and got stuck there after heavy snow and avalanche risk closed the road back to Queenstown, and we even wandered out into Middle Earth, otherwise known as Glenorchy.

Now, I’ve been to New Zealand a few times on car launches but on ‘work’ trips you tend not to focus on the scenery, instead on the twisting road in front of you and the car you’re piloting. But a driving holiday is different.

And if you’ve ever been to New Zealand you’ll know what I mean. The scenery, particularly on the South Island and down around Queenstown is absolutely eye-tiringly, jaw-achingly (from being dropped so many times) stunning.

Indeed, the countryside is so beautiful that when you’re driving it’s impossible not to be distracted. And the roads in NZ aren’t like the boring, gun-barrel straight roads we’re used to. Nope, it’s as if the best racing drivers in the world got together and designed these gorgeous twisting strips of blacktop that wind their way up, down, along and over some of most spectacular hills, lakes and mountains you’ve ever seen.

And it’s for this reason that I really do think tourists should be made to pin a T plate to their hire car or campervan. Having to display a T plate will alert local drivers that the person driving towards them is unlikely to be watching the road and is more likely to be peering out the windows to get a better look at the scenery. I know I was.

It’s easy to dismiss my argument… if you’ve never been to New Zealand. Sure, the road rules are very similar to Australia, but the roads aren’t, most of them anyway. For a start, you can’t drive the way a Sydney sider would and by that I mean aggressively, because you’d likely spear off the road and end up picking bits of the mountain out of your face you were just momentarily starring up at as the corner tightened on you. And you couldn’t drive like they do in Adelaide, either, and by that I mean as if you own the road. There are a lot of one-lane sections and give-ways at bridges… The Adelaide drivers I remember sharing the road with from my time living in that city would ignore all other road users as they bullied their way through. As for the other States and Territories… I can’t speak for them.

So, perhaps my argument is both about the scenery being a distraction for tourist drivers and thus local drivers should have some sort of warning that we’re not watching the road, and also that Australian drivers don’t have the discipline to drive on NZ roads without crashing.

The only fly in this ointment is that the T plate would have to be mighty big and bright to draw a driver’s gaze away from the scenery. 😉


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Terry Seymour
Terry Seymour
3 years ago

Great idea it would be a good reason not to go, don’t they want tourists.
I haven’t been and at my stage of life it’s unlikely but to all accounts it is a beautiful country.
Maybe some education at the point of car hire like a compulsory 1/2 hour movie before being given keys.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober