It has gripped New Zealand’s media for a long time and it’s happening here on the Gold Coast too – foreign drivers driving on the wrong side of the road and endangering the lives of locals.
Now Gold Coast lawyer Bruce Simmonds, who himself narrowly avoided a deadly late night encounter with a foreign driver on the wrong aside of the road recently , wants a Government clamp down on foreign motorists and local rental car companies.
He said a frightening late night encounter when an Asian driver almost rammed him head on made him realise how vulnerable Gold Coasters are to tourists who drive on the other side of the road at home, and unthinkingly do so here too.
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Mr Simmonds, Litigation Director with Gold Coast law firm Parker Simmonds Solicitors & Lawyers, said a boom in foreign tourist numbers was bringing with it the risk of inattentive drivers posing a serious risk of road accidents.
“These people may have a driver’s licence in their home country but there’s no test on them or onus on them to prove they are safe to drive in this country,” he said.
Mr Simmonds had client cases where local drivers were injured by foreign drivers, including students, who in too many cases had a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to road rules in Australia.
“We are actively chasing the Asian tourist market but too many of them who prefer a rental car to a coach tour are, frankly, a menace on the roads. This has been a huge issue in New Zealand with foreigners driving on the wrong side of the road and killing others in crashes.
“It’s become so bad over there. Some locals have taken to snatching the keys from Asian tourists, who seem to be the worst driving offenders there,” he said. Serious problems also occur with visitors from other countries too.
Recent statistics show a record $1.1 billion international tourist spend on the Gold Coast between March 2014 and March 2015 saw Chinese visitors now making up more than a quarter of the market. Investors from Asia were also buying up property on the Coast.
This was fine but with the influx of foreign visitors and investors came a heightened risk on the roads if they were not complying with Australian road rules.
Mr Simmonds said the Government could do more to impose safer road conditions by putting an onus on rental car companies to ensure safety, such as tough penalties for rental companies failing to properly ensure foreign drivers were licensed to drive here.
“If you have a road accident and the other driver is not licensed you may have trouble pursuing a claim against them. I’m aware of problems with some foreign students driving unregistered cars here.
“Generally if you are injured by a foreigner in a car the compulsory third party legislation applies for personal injury. If it’s a property claim you can sue them in the courts but you may have to go to their country to try and enforce any court decision made here.
“If the vehicle you are in collision with is not registered you have only a short three month period to lodge a claim against the Nominal Defendant, a government- established entity which covers non-registered vehicles involved in accidents,” Mr Simmonds said.
New Zealanders had become terrified of foreign motorists driving on the wrong side of the road and the same trend was emerging on the Gold Coast.
“It may not be politically correct to say it but our lives are at stake and while we welcome overseas visitors they need to abide by our road rules without exception,” Mr Simmonds said.
*Bruce Simmonds is Litigation Director with Gold Coast law firm Parker Simmonds Solicitors & Lawyers, telephone: 5592 5077.