QUESTION: Motor vehicle accidents involving overseas tourists

In Question Time, Mark asked the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment about motor vehicle accidents involving overseas tourists.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Last year it was reported that one in five motor vehicle accidents on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria involved international tourists in rental cars. In South Australia, there have been a number of instances over the years of tourists becoming disoriented and veering onto the wrong side of the road, resulting in deaths and serious injuries. Presumably that is why there are the occasional roadside signs, such as when you leave Cleland Wildlife Park, reminding motorists that we drive on the left in Australia.

Whilst the statistics are inconclusive, it looks as if international tourists are more likely than locals to be involved in certain types of accidents such as those involving fatigue or disorientation, and they are less likely to be involved in other types of accidents such as speeding or drink-driving. In response, there have been a number of calls to mandate additional education or information for overseas visitors before they are able to rent a vehicle or drive in Australia.

My questions to the minister are:

1. Has the Government undertaken any recent analysis of the involvement of overseas tourists in motor vehicle accidents in South Australia?

2. Given the overall surge in road fatalities in South Australia this year, what steps is the Government taking to reduce motor accidents involving overseas tourists?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his question and his ongoing interest in the tourism sector, and particularly this sector of motor vehicle accidents by overseas drivers. It is an issue that has been around for some number of years. Members in this chamber will recall that in opposition I had a very hardworking adviser, a man called Hendrik Gout, who was always at me to say that we should come up with an opposition policy to do something around educating international drivers. He was a work colleague of the Hon. Frank Pangallo, I believe, in recent times.

It is not a new phenomenon that we have overseas drivers—who obviously drive on the opposite side of the road and have right-hand drive vehicles and not left-hand drive vehicles—and so it does present a number of challenges. I cannot recall but I do believe that either the RAA or some of the hire-car companies offer some signage within the vehicles to say 'Just remember this is the side of the road we drive on', and to provide more information to those overseas travellers.

I have met with a company in China—again, I don't recall the name of the company, and if I could I probably wouldn't do justice to the pronunciation of it—that specialises in what we call free and independent travellers, who are people who hire cars and come here and drive around themselves. It is sort of the evolution, if you like, the maturing of a market. Often, with countries like China, we have seen them come on group tours, come as busloads of tourists, and now, as they become more comfortable with travelling to places like Australia, they then become these free and independent travellers.

The company I met with had an iPhone app or a smart phone app that converted Australian maps into Chinese, and I know from my recollection of that briefing that they had some information on those apps to remind their people, and their clients, that the road rules are different in Australia.

It is an important issue. I will check with a number of government departments. I suspect the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure may have some data on accidents in relation to overseas tourists. I will also check with the Tourism Commission, and maybe even the RAA for some of their breakdown and roadside assist data, because it is important. We need to make sure tourists, when they come to this country, feel safe and don't cause accidents to injure themselves or injure other travellers on the roads.

I will also take the final question from the honourable member in relation to what we are doing to reduce it. I will take them on notice on the basis that there is a continual road safety message being articulated across the community. I will have a look at all the initiatives that the hire car companies, the RAA or the other companies are implementing because, as I said, I think it is very important that we keep those travellers safe and also the people they are sharing the roads with. Those same travellers need to be safe.