Driving tests

Why T-plates for tourist drivers is a stupid idea

We’re doing all we can to help tourists and visitors adjust to New Zealand driving conditions with our free tourist Road Code quiz, and we were appalled by an idea that is gaining traction that tourist and visitor drivers should have to have a yellow T-plate on the back of their vehicle. It’s a suggestion borne of the xenophobic and biased media frenzy that surrounds road accidents involving tourists. Here’s why it’s a stupid idea:

  • Having a T-plate on the back of your car or campervan doesn’t automatically make you a better driver.
  • Some vehicles such as campervans and sign-written rental cars are already clearly marked as vehicles driven by tourists and this doesn’t seem to have any impact, a fact which is lost on the organisers of the T-Plate for Tourists movement who continually post images of signwritten rental vehicles that have been in accidents.
  • T-plates will draw thieves’ attention to those cars parked in remote car parks of our beautiful country as they’re more likely to have hidden luggage in the boot with valuables that are easy to resell.
  • It unfairly discriminates against drivers that drive regularly in New Zealand and are perfectly familiar with our road rules and driving style, for example, people who come here for business frequently.
  • There’s no suggestion as to how long this plate should remain on the car. If a person is a visitor for a year (in which time they can legally drive using their overseas licence) is the T-plate valid all the time they are driving on an overseas licence?
  • New migrants from 24 countries can, in less than a week, obtain a New Zealand licence without taking a theory or practical test despite having never driven on the left before, as long as they already have had a full licence in their home country for at least two years. How will we know about these drivers?
  • What about visitors staying with family and friends who use cars loaned to them?
  • What about drivers who arrive in New Zealand and buy a car to backpack around the country in?
  • If a driver of any kind crosses the centre line on a corner, how does a T-plate change this for the oncoming driver?
  • Drivers following vehicles with a T-plate will be hyper-sensitive to any perceived ‘bad’ driving, and will call in behaviour unnecessarily to the police leading to a dramatic rise in *555 calls which are unwarranted. This will stretch dispatch centres and police resources, diverting them away from actual emergencies.
  • It’s an added expense and environmental drain due to the production and administration of these plates which will be yet another square of oil-derived plastic to be imported from a low-cost-manufacturing country.
  • The impact on our economy could be severe. People come from all over the world to drive in our amazing country. Tourism is a huge earner for New Zealand, supporting many tens of thousands of jobs. If we make this harder, less people will come.
  • People have said that if it saves one life it is worth doing, which is a ridiculous assertion by these people unless they are also calling for a zero blood alcohol tolerance, zero tolerance of hands-free mobile phone use, mandatory inclusion of electronic stability control on every car in New Zealand, anti-lock brakes on all motorbikes, and a compulsory maximum speed limit of 40kph throughout the entire road network.
  • People are too quick to victimise and persecute a group of people and yet, statistically, half of those persecuting will be below average drivers themselves and will regularly break many of New Zealand’s road rules.
  • If a New Zealander hires a rental vehicle and doesn’t have a T-plate in it, will other drivers become irate and report the vehicle to the police? Similarly, if rental vehicle staff are taking a vehicle to a testing station and it doesn’t have a T-plate, will the police pull the driver over?

Look, we understand that in some countries you can just buy a licence and start driving with very little experience; it’s dangerous, we know. It’s also dangerous that New Zealanders can drive vehicles capable of more than 150kph, drink until they are drunk and get behind the wheel, smoke a joint and hop on a motorbike or drive a large logging truck while tired because of a new baby in the family. We have to rely on people’s personal responsibility, not a 6-inch square of yellow plastic.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in News
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