Should tourists have to get a drivers licence?

March 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

South Canterbury nine-year-old Sean Roberts is fighting to have New Zealand law changed, preventing tourists from driving on our roads without passing a driving test.

His motive is to save other families from the anguish he suffered after a tourist crashed into his dad, Grant Roberts, killing him, in November 2012.

The 43-year-old was on his motorbike. He was returning from the Burt Munro Challenge in Invercargill in a convoy of bikes.

They were travelling north when Roberts and Dennis Michael Pederson, 54, of Tauranga, collided with a southbound Nissan vehicle on State Highway 8, in the Lindis Pass. Both men died at the scene.

Chinese student Kejia Zheng, 20, was disqualified from driving for two years and ordered to pay $10,000 in emotional harm payments for causing the death of the two men and injuring two other people in the crash.

Zheng, who had arrived in New Zealand only the day before the crash, hit gravel on the side of the road and over-corrected, causing the crash.

It’s good to see young Sean trying to make a difference and advocate to try and prevent what happened to his family, happening again.

However I’m not sure that it would be practical to ban tourists from driving without a NZ licence. The likely impact would be a massive drop in tourists coming to NZ. We’d be the only country in the world that requires someone with a valid overseas licence, to sit an exam or test to be able to drive as a tourist.

If we did this, it is quite possible other countries would impose the same requirement on NZers.

So I understand the intent, but I don’t think a change is practical.

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54 Responses to “Should tourists have to get a drivers licence?”

  1. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    A heartfelt, albeit stupid, request that deserves an emphatic no for an answer.

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  2. Andrei (2,529 comments) says:

    It’s good to see young Sean trying to make a difference and advocate to try and prevent what happened to his family, happening again.

    Oh please – putting kids up to fronting political initiatives is one of the oldest tricks in the agitators playbook – it helps put the debate into the arena of emotion, rather than rational discourse

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  3. Ed Snack (1,773 comments) says:

    And no NZ licence holder ever got into the gravel, over corrected, and crashed ? In fact from what I’ve seen of NZ driving tests and teachings, even thinking about opposite lock and car handling at that level is verboten. I’m self taught on it after living some distance up a gravel road for years, but over-correction is very easy to do and hard to prevent. The key is avoiding going into the verge (in this case) to start with. It was inattention not poor driving; and I doubt that NZ roads are worse than most Chinese roads.

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  4. Monique Angel (258 comments) says:

    It’s the godawful NZ roads that are the main factor in crashes like these. Hit gravel and over corrected! Outcome not surprising. I pity the driver.

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  5. berend (1,671 comments) says:

    Is there any indication Zheng would have failed the test, and therefore not be on the road?

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  6. berend (1,671 comments) says:

    Monique makes a very important point: we have terrible roads, and instead of fixing them, we clean up after the fact.

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  7. Monique Angel (258 comments) says:

    I drive around the SF Bay area with 8 million other drivers and you just don’t get the kind of carnage you do in New Zealand. And I drove on my NZ license for a year b4 getting the Californian version.

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  8. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    Understandable sentiment, but a flawed proposal.

    NOTHING I learned in the course of obtaining my drivers license would have been of ANY assistance if I ran over some gravel and got a bit sideways.

    So I don’t believe drivers licensing regimes would have likely made a difference in this crash.

    (In my youth I almost caused what would have been a pretty bad nose-to-tail crash on the Auckland motorway, by not looking far enough ahead of me in heavy rain, then having to panic brake and locking it up.

    The ONLY reason I got out of that one, without hurting anyone or damaging anyone’s property, is because I’d spent a lot of time playing Gran Turismo 2 on the Playstation, and so had a lot of practise at driving out of slides based on that alone… and in this moment of crisis, things that happened in real life emulated what happens in the playstation surprisingly accurately!)

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  9. unaha-closp (1,133 comments) says:

    Can’t we just ban anybody over 40 from owning a motorbike?

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  10. davidp (3,551 comments) says:

    That would solve NZ’s unemployment problem, with hundreds of driver license testers on standby for every arriving international flight, ready to test a driver and issue a license in 20 minutes while passengers would normally be waiting for their baggage.

    To avoid roads near airports being clogged up with testing drivers doing a three point turn, we’d need dedicated test tracks set up at the airport to resemble NZ roads. There would be short overtaking lanes where the foreigners could experience local drivers trying to overtake them in a furious burst of speed, followed by rapid deceleration when the local spots the traffic police parked at the end of the lane. There would be a section of 100km/hr motorway, so that Europeans wouldn’t be confused why everyone was driving so slow. There would be another section of track where the foreigner would encounter a crusty man on a quad bike moving a flock of sheep down the middle of a state highway. Aussies would need to be taught that possums are pests here and it is okay to hit them. Lastly, they’d spend 10 minutes trapped behind an old woman doing 90km/hr in the fast lane of the motorway, in order to weed out foreigners who suffer from road rage.

    None of which addresses the problem that NZers would turn in to motoring pariahs, unable to drive anywhere else in the world.

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  11. Monique Angel (258 comments) says:

    Ha! High speed oncoming traffic! Uniquely NZ road conditions that killed many of my friends as teenagers.You get traffic barriers separating oncoming traffic in the rest of the free world. No tiny little metal links either.
    Great big motherfucking brick walls and separate freeways.
    To think of the fight Mana residents had to put up to get a barrier along the death trap that stretches Levin south.

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  12. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    Monique Angel
    It’s the godawful NZ roads that are the main factor in crashes like these. Hit gravel and over corrected! Outcome not surprising. I pity the driver.

    Roads are not something that happens to the driver. Drivers happen to the roads.

    You are responsible for your safety. If in doubt, slow down.

    Most NZ state highways have a bold white line along the left-hand edge to show you exactly where it is, to help prevent exactly this type of crash.

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  13. slijmbal (1,223 comments) says:

    Put the boot on the other foot.

    You go on holiday to (insert European country here) where they drive on the right and hire a car – would you expect to take a driving test? I see that working – not. Completely unworkable.

    I would like the hire companies to provide summaries of any key differences around rules of the road though – would make life easier.

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  14. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    Monique Angel
    Ha! High speed oncoming traffic! Uniquely NZ road conditions that killed many of my friends as teenagers.You get traffic barriers separating oncoming traffic in the rest of the free world. No tiny little metal links either.
    Great big motherfucking brick walls and separate freeways.

    Continuous barrier-lined, separate carriageways the full length of SH8 and every other road of similar or greater importance?

    How much extra petrol tax would you like with that? A lot? Or a LOT?

    Most of our New Zealand cars are fitted with steering wheels and brakes, to allow for twists and turns in the road. :neutral:

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  15. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    unaha-closp
    Can’t we just ban anybody over 40 from owning a motorbike?

    Why on earth would we want to do that? The BAMBi movement must have done more to reduce our NZ Superannuation liability than any other single thing I can think of! ;-)

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  16. jp_1983 (200 comments) says:

    Lets ban cars and we can cycle and walk everywhere under the Green Utopia.

    Just think we could be restricted to our village and not allowed to venture further under the guise of climate change

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  17. davidp (3,551 comments) says:

    RRM>You are responsible for your safety. If in doubt, slow down.

    Consumer products, including roads, shouldn’t kill you if you misuse them. Manufacturers go to all sorts of lengths to protect you from harm from their products. There shouldn’t be gravel on the edge of roads. Build a reasonable hard shoulder and sweep it clean of the sort of gravel and rubbish you find on the edge of pretty much every NZ road.

    I’ve done long distance bicycling in a number of countries, but not in NZ. Because the edges of NZ roads are just shite. I’m never happy that my bike has a good grip on the road surface, especially when going down hill.

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  18. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    Consumer products, including roads, shouldn’t kill you if you misuse them.

    Knives.

    Alcohol.

    Weed killer.

    Spray Paint.

    Chain saws.

    Angle grinders.

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  19. Rightandleft (652 comments) says:

    I don’t think there’s a problem with a child proposing a change that could actually benefit society, but surely some adult should have talked this through with him and pointed out the obvious failings of such an idea before it got this far. Then again the coroners have come out with some even nuttier nanny-state stuff in response to other untimely deaths.

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  20. Hamish_NZ (45 comments) says:

    Not to mention the fact we’d breach our international obligations if we did this. We signed a treaty on driving licence portability. And as NZers we’d have to get licences to drive on other countries too.
    Alrhough that said, the standard of many Indian and Chinese drivers is so poor that I’m not sure it isn’t time for that treaty to be updated with some sort of minimum standard. A lot seem to have won their licence in some sort of shopping mall prize draw.

    On a separate but related issue, I really think it’s time the categorisation if vehicles changes so campervans require a higher level of licence to drive. Not just for tourists, but everyone. Could be sat at the campervan rental or sale place, just so the drivers are aware the vehicle they’re driving isn’t the same size as a little corolla they drive on other days. Some of the driving by campervans is shocking. Often it’s the empty nesters who are the worst, and seem to think they’re the only person on the road.
    And I guess the same could apply to SUV drivers, especially school mums. Now they definitely need a tougher test to pass to be able to drive one!

    Agree with the general sentiment above that our roads are crap. But that’s what you get when for a large number of years the money raised for them was spent on other things. State Highway 1 at the very least should be median devided for its whole length. Also I think less roads should be sealed, and we recognise that rural roasw should be just that, rural, and if you live there then you shouldn’t automatically expect a sealed road.
    By the way, I love gravel roads. Sorts the men from the boys.

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  21. alwyn (397 comments) says:

    One thing I would like to see is that people arriving of a long-haul flight, say anything further than a single leg flight from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane are not allowed to rent a car until the following day.
    I have seen, at Auckland airport, people off straight through flights from Europe collecting a rental car and heading out of Auckland. I wonder how many of the tourists who have crashes have done precisely that?
    I go to Europe and often get a rental car. I always stay at an airport hotel and don’t collect the car until the next day. I think even a single night’s sleep is worth while.

    I also think their should be an onus on rental car firms to provide drivers with at least a summary of the road rules, pointing out any where there is a major difference from overseas countries..
    At least we got rid of that New Zealand only rule about the right of way for turning traffic. Remember how there was going to be chaos? Didn’t happen did it?

    Actually, the most dangerous thing about New Zealand roads is New Zealand drivers. I have driven in NZ, Australia, Great Britain, France, Holland, Germany, USA and Canada. New Zealand drivers are by far the worst. What makes people who are generally pleasant out of their cars, turn into raving homicidal lunatics when they get behind the wheel of a car?

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  22. Hamish_NZ (45 comments) says:

    Oh and if we were really wanting to make safer roads, then cyclists should be forced to ride single file again, and road bikes should be banned. Their tire thinness is a major reason for their poor road handling.
    Minimum tire width should be about 1 inch, that’s about as small as is safe for riding safely on roads, allowing for occasional loose gravel and other hazards.
    Why should road cyclists be allowed to practice racing, that’s what most riders in lycra do, when no one else is allowed to practice racing on the road? They should be forced to practice racing off road, and fund such courses/tracks themselves. Just like mountain bikers do.

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  23. Peter (1,653 comments) says:

    Sorry about your loss, but “No” Sean.

    It’s a stupid idea.

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  24. labrator (1,821 comments) says:

    @RRM you missed ladders. You know the ones that ACC spends a fortune on each year letting you know they’re deadly?

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  25. David Garrett (6,661 comments) says:

    Hamish: Good comments..and now on a related topic I’ll take a deep breath and say this…If you live in Auckland, and drive on the motorway – which is pretty much unavoidable – you invariably encounter Asians driving in the middle or right lane at about 60 kph…no amount of light flashing or horn sounding penetrates their little cocoon…

    Having known youngsters who take two or three goes to get their licence, the only rational conclusion is said Asian accidents-waiting-to-happen must have passed a test administered by some Asian driving school proprietor…

    Steeling myself against the inevitable accusations of racism…. surely we can pass a law which says immigrant drivers can only be tested by New Zealand born instructor/testers?

    PS…My dentist is Chinese born…and HE loves telling me all about the “f…ing Asian drivers” he has encountered lately every time I see him

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  26. edhunter (510 comments) says:

    Is the problem more that because we only have 4.4 million people spread across 2 rugged & constantly changing landscapes we don’t have the resources to build the roads they have overseas.
    To use Monique’s example of San Francisco 8 million people in a 4160 sq km area vs 4.4 million in a 268000 sq km area. I imagine our roading dollar has to go a lot further than San Francisco’s.

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  27. ShawnLH (4,330 comments) says:

    Privatize the roads.

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  28. CJPhoto (218 comments) says:

    We wouldn’t be the only country – Cook Islands requires existing license holders to sit a license exam, though I think everyone accepts this is just revenue gathering.

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  29. David Garrett (6,661 comments) says:

    Privatizing the roads won’t make a jot of difference to the problem of Asian drivers who simply arent trained well enough to drive on our roads…

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  30. ShawnLH (4,330 comments) says:

    I never said it would David.

    I just wanna privatise the roads. :)

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  31. David Garrett (6,661 comments) says:

    Shawn: How would that work exactly? I can how scanning plates etc. would work on motorways, but putting scanners on back country roads like mine which have very little traffic on them would be hugely expensive and problematic (cost of maintenance; replacements when vandalized etc.)

    I am genuinely interested in how your idea would work…

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  32. jcuk (626 comments) says:

    It is obvious that Monique simply has not driven extensively on States roads…. I can think of numerous roads quite close to a major city which are two way as most in NZ …. I do enjoy driving on one way roads but it is not essential.
    I am sorry the boy lost his father to some asian clown not being up to driving on country/ mountain roads but any suggested restriction would be impossible to implemnt and would lead to restrictions on NZ drivers and probably all drivers world wide … in anycase as I read earlier today the problem will be solved in a few years when petrol is $20<$25 a Litre.

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  33. jcuk (626 comments) says:

    I am not sure that kiwi drivers are all capable of driving on NZ roads.

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  34. jcuk (626 comments) says:

    The trouble with slow drivers in the ‘fast’ lane is that being used to right hand driving they instinctively think they are in the slow lane. We have corrected our son who normally lives in the states from doing this several times.

    My solution to driving o/seas has been keep to the side that the passenger side of the car is …. thankfull I have never driven an english car on the continent, only ‘local’ cars and trucks.

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  35. jcuk (626 comments) says:

    I would like to see NZ adopt the turn left on red as the turn right on red in the states. But perhaps it wouldn’t work here with kiwi drivers all for asseerting their rights.

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  36. Akaroa (552 comments) says:

    I always smile when i read some pundit or other writing about how bad NZ drivers are.

    Why, you ask, do I smile?

    Because having driven cars, motorcycles, military vehicles and trucks for over fifty years in UK, Europe, Malta, USA, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and NZ I know that there are good and bad drivers everywhere.

    Every country i have driven in has its mad idiots, its ultra-careful speed limit adherents, its dizzy old ladies and its sensible average drivers.

    Nowhere that I have driven has any worse drivers than anywhere else.

    No! Not even back here in Godzone.

    (And, no, I’m not perfect. I’ve had the odd prang – no fatalities though!!)_

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  37. UglyTruth (4,550 comments) says:

    I would like to see NZ adopt the turn left on red as the turn right on red in the states. But perhaps it wouldn’t work here with kiwi drivers all for asseerting their rights.

    If you don’t assert your rights it’s all just a slippery slope to the slave state.

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  38. Monique Angel (258 comments) says:

    Actually Jsuk. I have driven extensively on the interstates over here. I guess you are referring to roads near cities with speed restrictions and not major freeways in metropolitan areas . Are you referring to Vermont roading conditions?
    My experience is SF LA NJ

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  39. UglyTruth (4,550 comments) says:

    “Personal liberty largely consists of the Right of locomotion — to go where and when one pleases — only so far restrained as the Rights of others may make it necessary for the welfare of all other citizens. The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horse drawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but the common Right which he has under his Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under this Constitutional guarantee one may, therefore, under normal conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor disturbing another’s Rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe conduct.”

    II Am.Jur. (1st) Constitutional Law, Sect.329, p.1135

    http://www.lawfulpath.com/ref/DLbrief.shtml

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  40. David Garrett (6,661 comments) says:

    UT: Increase the dose by 50% and make an appointment to see your doctor.

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  41. BlairM (2,303 comments) says:

    Well I’ve let my NZ Driver’s Licence expire already, so the kid can bugger off. No way am I going to get another one just to be able to get on the road while I visit.

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  42. UglyTruth (4,550 comments) says:

    UT: Increase the dose by 50% and make an appointment to see your doctor.

    David Garrett, as a practicing lawyer, are you aware that the right of ordinary (i.e. non-commercial) use of public roads exists in English common law, as described by Blackstone:

    Next to personal security, the law of England regards, asserts, and preserves the personal liberty of individuals. This personal liberty consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or moving one’s person to whatsoever place one’s own inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law.
    http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1415&Itemid=262

    Due course of law does not mean legislation or statute law:

    Due course of law. This phrase is synonymous with “due process of law,” or “the law of the land,” and the general definition thereof is “law in its regular course of administration through courts of justice”. See Due process of law. (Black’s 5th)

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  43. UglyTruth (4,550 comments) says:

    Looks like Mr Garrett isn’t too confident about his knowledge of law and has avoided the question, just like he did yesterday

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  44. wreck1080 (3,787 comments) says:

    old people and asians give me the heeby jeebies on the road.

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  45. CharlieBrown (916 comments) says:

    My sister in law was eligible to drive in NZ because she walked into a Mexican police station, applied for a license then fifteen minutes later walked out of that station with a valid license. Does anyone have an issue with that?

    Incidentally, she cannot drive in NZ anymore now as she has been here for over a year.

    Its time we woke up to the fact that not all countries are equal in the way they test driving. We need a white, grey and blacklist system where people from the whitelist countries can drive without further testing, people from greylist countries need a written and verbal test to drive, and people from blacklist countries need to go through full testing.

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  46. ShawnLH (4,330 comments) says:

    David Garret,

    You can read online ‘The Machinery of Freedom’ by David Freidman which goes some way towards explaining how private roads will work.

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  47. jcuk (626 comments) says:

    People who most concern me are those currently driving vehicles with registration H## ….. ie. people who are unfamiliar with the vehicle being operated :)

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  48. MikeE (555 comments) says:

    Speaking as an expat (currently based in Thailand, with plans to be in the states later), I’d hate it if this was changed, these obligations are reciprocal, so if we stopped foreign drivers from driving in NZ, we’d likely lose our ability to drive overseas as well.

    Though, equally, living in Thailand I’m well aware of the fact that you can pretty much get a Bus licence over here without driving one, which is scary as all hell.

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  49. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    I MEAN IT IS COMMON SENSE ISN”T IT

    TO DO SOMETHING

    But if you are a pretend centre right Ideologist you do NOTHING IN ALL THESE TYPES OF CIRCUMSTANCES

    BECAUSE IF IT IS GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY

    It is ok to put lives at risk

    AS LONG AS JOHN KEYS FIGURES LOOK GOOD

    IT IS ALL OK

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  50. V (686 comments) says:

    DG, At least those young Asian drivers you seek to generalise about got their license under their own name I suppose.

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  51. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    Most NZ Drivers are a BUNCH of Psychos

    with Psycho attitudes to driving

    Tourist should be offered defensive driving courses as well

    I have this fond memories of a Private School Bus trying to Run me off the Road in NewMarket

    the slimey Brats were being given a good ole traditional lesson in ROAD RAGE

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  52. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    I have this fond memories of a Private School Bus trying to Run me off the Road in NewMarket

    It’s a pity he missed you (and DotCom). :-)

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  53. CrazyManax (2 comments) says:

    Well I just like to re.iterate the actual original plea by Sean was to seek change, not to force them to obtain a New Zealand drivers licence but to have some practical steps in place, to educate foreign drivers on our roads. And I can duly inform you Sean although young is an articulated young lad who is absolutely aware of his endeavours. Be good or negative he has helped raised this topic nationwide. And he is a 9 year old boy I am positive that he is not reading the negative opinions as such, although relayed to him in an appropriate manner.
    I would also like to state we would not be the only country to do so, seek change or regulation that is, not once was it suggested by Sean to obtain a Nz licence but merely to seek change and reform around foreign drivers . Sean is fully aware of the international agreement and signatry countries who signed this agreement. China being one country who did not sign!! To drive in China you must obtain a Chinese Licence, et we allow them on our roads. Did youalso know that in China to obtain a licence you sit a computerized multi choice test, of which a ninety percent pass ,without any practical test gives you a Chinese licence. Hello some of there people may never have driven a bloody car. Then with that licence, due to the signatory agreement can come to NZ and hire cars and campervans, and you think that is ok. Its a genuine appeal on behalf of all nNz by a boy who wanted to know why? And my intent was not to pick on Chinese drivers was just an example. Sean seeks some change to raise awareness. And quite frankly it may remove our right to drive elsewhere, come on is that the worst thing ever? Canada have a mandatory 24 stand down after long haul flights before hiring a car etc and are required to watch a video on driving practises relevant to their country. They say the enormity of try to regulateg

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  54. CrazyManax (2 comments) says:

    A continuation… ^^
    They say to regulate and police stand downs etc before rental cars etc hired is an almost impossible task. Puts a rather cheap price on each and every one of your Heads. Nobody is not wanting tourists here, nor is Sean sayin our own people do not need to practise safer driving. He is seeking sooff me form of change, not a bad thing. Have a happy day and too the guy dn’t want t pay for licence while here and told Sean to bugger off hurry up spend ya tourist dollars and buga off yourself :)

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