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Still mourning . . . The death of Grant Roberts, who was killed by a tourist driver five years ago, is mourned by his family (clockwise, from back, left) Christopher Shand, Caitlin Roberts, Cody Roberts (12), with Carlos Shand (14 months), and Mel Pipson, with Nikau Shand (2). PHOTO: SUPPLIED

In the five years since Mel Pipson’s children lost their father, who was killed in a crash involving an overseas driver, it seems little has changed.

This week, two lots of dashcam footage emerged of campervans in the South Island driving on the wrong side of the road, sparking calls for a 24-hour cooling-off period for tourist drivers.

“It gave [the industry] a real shake, rattle and roll.”

Grant (Granny) Roberts (43) was killed on November 26, 2012, leaving his three children without their father.

Mr Roberts was in a convoy of motorbikes when he collided with a vehicle on State Highway 8 in the Lindis Pass. Dennis Pederson (54) also died.

Chinese student Kejia Zheng, who was 20 years old at the time, 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.

His sons Cody and Sean Roberts took a petition with more than 42,000 signatures to Parliament, asking for tourists to be required to sit a test before driving on New Zealand roads.

While such a measure was not passed into law, their efforts prompted industry members to produce road safety messages about specific areas of concern, particularly on roads where there was a high incidence of overseas driver-related crashes.

Rumble lines were placed on roads of serious concern, steering-wheel safety guideline tags were added to rental cars and road safety videos are now aired on inbound flights.

“I credit [Sean and Cody] for a hell of a lot,” Ms Pipson said.

“They are so humble about it. I don’t think they realise what they’ve done by highlighting it.

“It gave [the industry] a real shake, rattle and roll.”

Unfortunately, there were still reports of near-misses – Les Smith experienced two in a recent car journey between Fairlie and Geraldine, one involving a rented tourist van, and the other a campervan.

Mr Smith, who was Mr Roberts’ close friend, said in one case he had a vehicle coming towards him on his side of the road, while the other incident involved a rental vehicle, a logging truck and his vehicle.

“I had enough time to get back in before I had to decide if it was a truck or a bridge [that I would crash into].”

Both experiences left him shaking for some time afterwards, he said.

He was not unfamiliar with dangerous driving.

“I used to travel between Alexandra and Queenstown every day and night for four years for my work, and every day I would have at least one near-miss.”

 

Foreign driver crash stats

Twenty-four fatal crashes on New Zealand roads in 2016 involved foreign drivers, the latest figures from the Ministry of Transport show.

A further 114 serious injury crashes and 506 minor injury crashes involved overseas drivers.

In comparison, there were 286 fatal crashes in total throughout New Zealand in 2016, 2099 serious injury crashes and 7583 minor injury crashes.

From 2012 to 2016, 6.2% of fatal and injury crashes involved an overseas driver.

They included short-term visitors to New Zealand, overseas students and migrants.

The MOT report found half of all visitor crashes occurred in the four months from December to March.

That seasonal variation “largely aligns” with visitor arrival trends: more than half of short-term visitors come to New Zealand between November and March.

The top six countries of overseas drivers involved in crashes were Australia, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The report shows that between 2012 and 2016 there were 27 crashes in the Mackenzie District involving overseas drivers, 46 in Central Otago and 146 in the Queenstown Lakes District.