The Indian national driver of a rental car that drifted across a Canterbury Highway on New Zealand's South Island at 1315 hours on November 25 and crashed head-on with an oncoming vehicle was a tourist in New Zealand on holiday, killed himself as well as 54-year-old Kiwi from Ashburton.
Police are not ruling out inattention or unfamiliarity with New Zealand roadways being a factor in the double-fatality crash.
The names of the two drivers killed in the collision on State Highway 1, just north of the Rakaia River are expected to be released in the next few days.
The Indian tourist was traveling south with a woman, also in her 20s, thought to be his wife. She remains in critical condition in the Christchurch Hospital.
The Ashburton woman was traveling in convoy with family members, including her partner, to Christchurch for a family gathering. Sadly, her partner was in the car behind hers when the crash occurred. The 54-year-old Ashburton driver was also transporting a female relative in her 20s, who was seriously injured. She she in a stable condition in the hospital.
COMMENT: The dead tourist possessed an Indian driving permit, although he would have been unfamiliar with New Zealand roadways, let alone driving obstacles, wildlife, livestock and unpredictable driving patterns.
Although I have endeavored in recent years to emphasize that New Zealand's roadways are among some of the most dangerous on Earth.
The first challenge for foreign travelers in particular is that driving in New Zealand is on the "left" not on the "right," which invariably poses a huge challenge in reaction time when drivers least expect it.
Many foreign travelers who often fly the arduous trip to New Zealand from the US, Canada or another long-haul point of origination somehow strangely feel that can can emerge from a 15-hour to 24-hour airline trip and be fresh and alert to drive on the "left" for the first time in their life.
I strongly urge travelers to take a shuttle or taxi from where they arrive in New Zealand as they are invariably dead-tired and jet-lagged and hardly cognizant to adapt quickly to driving on the "left," stopping for sheep and cattle, winding roads, etc.
Unfortunately, many foreign travelers over-estimate their ability to drive on the "left, and often are seriously injured or killed on roadways as a result of not having the reaction time to make the right driving choice in a matter of seconds.
Sadly, foreign travelers continue to be maimed and killed on roadways in New Zealand and often take law-abiding Kiwis along with him because of their inability to adapt easily to driving on the "left."
Rather than continue to see foreign travelers and Kiwis as well die unnecessarily, it may be time for New Zealand to mandate that all foreign drivers pass a written and road test to determine their competency to drive safely in New Zealand.
Yet, it is doubtful that government officials will ever agree to such a stringent proposal on the basis of losing dramatic market share or annoying tourists who are insulted by the need for such an essential safety requirement.