19 May 2016

Should tourists have special license plates on their rental cars?

"Holidaymakers wishing to take a road trip in New Zealand should be required to take a driving test and display “T-plates” on their vehicle to warn other drivers of any potential danger.

T-Plates for Tourists claims that foreign drivers are to blame for a disproportionate number of road traffic accidents and wants to take action to make the country’s roads safer.
"If learner drivers are required to display L-plates, and restricted drivers are required to abide by curfews and accompaniment rules, then logically it would make sense to enforce equivalent rules upon overseas drivers. A simple requirement for tourists to display T-plates would alert surrounding drivers to be extra vigilant."
Last year, a group of vigilantes on the country’s South Island, where foreign drivers make up a quarter of all road crashes, began confiscating car keys from tourists they believed were not driving safely in a move prime minister Key called “not sensible”."
Proofreader needed:
"Last year there were 13.6 fatalities involving overseas drivers..."
"Over the last five years there have been 13.6 fatalities involving overseas drivers..."


  1. As someone who has traveled quite a bit to more tourist oriented places I can both agree with the sentiment and fear the possible ramifications. There have been times where I'm quite sure that I was menace on the roads due a lack of understanding/experience with and of the rules in that location. But I fear the idea of a sign that says "look at me, I'm a tourist, expensive camera, cash on hand, rob me." Maybe a "T" placard like the "L" Learners placard that can be stashed when your parked?

  2. This is a backlash from some 'tourists' that have driven badly and caused grief or an accident.
    Most tourists to New Zealand are Australian or British, both of whom drive, as we do, on the left side of the road.
    A lot of accidents and incorrect driving practises are the fault of some immigrant drivers, not r tourists but lacking the basics of driving skill.
    I fear tourist drivers from right hand driving countries.
    I fear them every time I travel on a country road around here where I live, a touristy area, as am aware that if I were driving on the opposite side of the road to what I am used to, and was tired or distracted, my natural inclination would be to revert, unconsciously, to the 'normal' side of the road, especially if I needed to avoid a hazard.
    No, they should forget the 'T' plate.
    They should have a 'D' plate.
    D for Dummy.

    1. It has been quite a few years since the last time I drove in a "sinister" country - but I distinctly remember the intense pressure I felt almost the entire trip. And I did once pull out onto a road into the wrong lane.

      I think if I were to visit there again, I would have to budget for the hiring of a driver, who might also serve as a guide for some aspects of the visit.

  3. When my husband and I visited London we did not rent a car. We did take a day trip to Hertfordshire, driven by a work colleague of mine who is a native Englishman. Even as a passenger not the driver I was incredibly tense throughout the trip and had to stifle the urge to "back-seat" drive because everything seemed just "wrong." I am sure that I would have even greater difficulty in driving "on the wrong side" and I know that I would never attempt to do it -- for my safety and the safety of anyone along my route. Thank heaven the public transportation in London allowed us to see everything we wanted to(or had time to) see without having to drive.

  4. License plates for rental cars in Florida used to have a leading "Y" or "Z" or the word "Lease" on them, making them peachy targets for car-jackings or other types of robbery. This practice came to an end in 1993 after the murders of a few German tourists led to an international media storm that questioned the safety of Florida tourism.

    1. I was only 14 at that time, but I do remember that on the news.

      And I do agree to some degree that tourist drivers are somewhat insecure, but in my experience that just means they drive slower, like females tend to here in Germany.
      And I laugh at the Kiwis, thinking they have it bad. I have driven in Australia, been to Auckland, driven in the United States, driven in Italy, Spain, France, Gibraltar, Austria, the Czech Republic and probably some others. Left hand driving - at least for me - was trivially easy, and I never came anywhere close to a collision, and never had anyone beep their horn at me.
      The worst place to drive in was in the United States. Driving on the Motorway was one big melee, the signage was bad, and I'd end up having to cross four or five lanes within 3/4 of a mile to catch my exit (this was in Texas, close to the Dallas/FtW airport).
      The one single thing that differs the most in my experience is roundabout etiquette, and to what level of complexity the intersections go, and in that respect, New Zealand is also harmless.
      I know one intersection in Leon, in Spain that is really nasty. You approach a 2 or 3 (I still don't know for sure) lane roundabout on a three lane road. The two outer lanes are for going straight or right, if you want to go slightly leftish, you have to go to the innermost ring, but then cross the two outer rings (where a two lane road just entered), and it has some pedestrian crossings thrown in, and right after the roundabout is a mix of one way roads at wild angles with stop signs that intersect.
      What doesn't help at all is that it seems acceptable in Spain to park WITHIN ROUNDABOUTS or intersections, sometimes on the hatched lines, with your warning lights on.
      Rental cars in Spain quite often have stickers from the rental car companies at the back.

    2. I remember bringing this up to my parents when I was a kiddo, and getting that response about the Florida license plates. That all happened at a time I was too young in 1993 to remember that happening but that's exactly the story my parents told me when I asked why tourists don't get special plates. I guess growing up in Florida you get a unique perspective on things...

    3. Matthias Gietl: Even on the highways or motorways there are clues to which side your exit will be on - and even Americans don't usually know them. If there are several signs for exits coming up, the signs will be on the side the exit will be.

    4. I remember that tragedy as well.

      Cars that were part of Florida's rental fleets had particular license plates that made them easy to identify. This made them easy targets for crime. The most common involved two cars. The first would pull alongside the rental car to cut off any possibility of escape, the second would get in front and then slam on the brakes, causing an accident. When the tourist got out of his vehicle to swap insurance information, he would find himself being beaten senseless and robbed.

      After the murder of the German tourists, Florida finally acknowledged there was a problem and enacted legislation that would randomize plate numbers so cars owned by rental companies could not be so easily identified.

  5. Ah, fond memories. Thanks! During a 5-week trip with 3 rentals (2 for North Island and 1 for South Island - saves on having to pay ferry fees for a car), I was honked at twice for not abiding by such laws as the vehicle-at-an-intersection-that-turns-across-traffic has the right of way. Who knew?!? It did take several hours of driving before I was somewhat comfortable with the opposite side, and I'm very glad I wasn't involved in an accident. I have to say, I do love NZ's usage of roundabouts; it's way more efficient than the standard issue USA stop lights and stop signs... in more ways than one.

  6. ps - Also called a "Pittsburgh left" here in the States.

  7. I will never drive in a left handed country because I have issues with right and left (right brain). When driving with a navigator in the passenger seat I ask to be told "my way" or "your way" so I do not have to think about it. I would feel VERY insecure in a left driving land. I'll take a cab, bus, subway, train. You all do that better than we do, anyway.


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