International tourists could have to prove their driving skills before being able to hire a car, under a plan being pushed by Liberal backbencher Sarah Henderson.
Ms Henderson wants a more stringent approach to international driver’s licences and has called for a review.
She also suggested consideration of options such as compulsory safety videos for all international tourists hiring cars, and asking car hire companies to impose stricter standards before renting out vehicles.
“It is a real danger that these international tourists are coming across from other parts of the world, getting into a hire car … and they really are a moving time bomb,” she said.
“I just don’t think it’s good enough that there’s no verification of someone’s driving experience when they arrive in Australia.
“We need to look at ways in which we can ensure that we know that they have the requisite driving experience, that they are not going to be a hazard to themselves and to others.”
Ms Henderson’s electorate of Corangamite in Victoria includes the Great Ocean Road, which is a popular scenic driving route for visitors.
According to VicRoads, 21 per cent of crashes along the Great Ocean Road from July 2012 to June 2017 were caused by international drivers.
“On a weekly basis, we are hearing of incidents involving international drivers on the wrong side of the road, stopping in the middle of the road taking photographs of koalas … [and] running through stop signs,” Ms Henderson said.
What are the current regulations?
According to VicRoads, tourists can drive using their current overseas drivers licence as long as it is written in English.
If it is not, they need an English translation or an international driving permit.
There is no requirement for any additional tests upon entering Australia.
Tourists from New Zealand are treated the same as interstate drivers.
Overseas learner permits can’t be used to drive in Victoria though.
Similar rules exist for other states around Australia.
Tim Carroll, who owns a cafe at Aireys Inlet along the Great Ocean Road, said his business relied on international tourists driving the Great Ocean Road.
He said visitors weren’t always aware of road rules and conditions.
“Sometimes you see bad [driving] behaviours where people will stop in the wrong spot, but it’s generally a minority not the majority of people,” he said.
“If there was more scrutiny at the actual interface where they get their hire vehicle or whatever, then that might make it safer because then they’d have a better knowledge of the road rules.”
Saha Alek, who is from Bangladesh and lives in Hong Kong, said he had no problems driving on Australian roads and hoped to visit the country again.
“It was my dream to visit these places,” he said.
Push to test tourist drivers in New Zealand
Across the ditch, there is a campaign for tourists to sit a test and be granted T-Plates.
A 2015 report from the NZ Transport Agency found over the five years from 2010 to 2014, 5.7 per cent of fatal and injury crashes in New Zealand involved an overseas licence holder.
But the campaign has not changed New Zealand’s rules for international drivers, which are identical to Australia’s.
New Zealand has introduced a Visiting Driver Training Programme that all international tourists are encouraged to complete.
Some rental car companies will also give tourists a discount if they present a completion certificate.
Calls for drivers to take care as road death toll climbs
More than 1,000 people died on Australia’s roads in 2017, with the summer holiday period marred by several horrific car crashes.
The toll has prompted pleas for drivers to take care on the roads from emergency services workers and national leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“At this time of year, which should be a time of happiness and love and families getting together, to be seeing so many families being ripped apart by these shocking accidents is a tragedy,” he said.
The New South Wales Government is focusing on the possibility that technology will help reduce the carnage on the nation’s roads.
“That’s going to be the biggest boost to safety we’ve seen in generations,” NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said.
“Emergency braking, lane assist — they’re really important initiatives, which I think are going to have a really significant impact on the road toll.”
However, she said she did not believe in changing the mandated standards to force manufacturers to include these safety features in new cars.
“I think people will move towards that technology, especially with the way … the price is coming down,” she said.
“I think they’ll make those choices themselves.”