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Just seven visitors from over 200 tested passed New Zealand’s written driving test

Tourists taking to New Zealand roads have far worse knowledge of the rules than expected, according to a new report from the University of Otago.

Of the 226 people surveyed from 34 countries, just seven passed the written test, and 15 per cent said they were not confident they could drive in New Zealand safely, despite having been in the country for a number of days and driving on New Zealand roads.

The report's author, Professor Neil Carr from the University of Otago told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning, "I think it's fair to say that the number who failed was surprising."

"I think at first glance, it was a little bit frightening, but then you reflect back and you go, 'Well, how many New Zealanders would pass it after several years of driving on the road?' I think that's an intriguing question in its own right."

He said New Zealanders point the finger at tourist drivers rather than looking at ourselves because "tourists are an easy target to blame."

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"I think we need to have a wider discussion on road safety, rather than just taking the easy targets."

However, he called the possibility of testing tourists' knowledge "highly problematic."

"We certainly need to be providing more information in a user-friendly way to our visitors," Professor Carr said. "The idea of testing them is highly problematic when you've got people coming from huge distances away, they've already organised all their holiday – to try and test them when they arrive here is impractical.

"Rather than making it a frightening experience for them, we have to make it an inclusive experience - integrate them into our driving culture in a way that actually benefits them and us."

Professor Carr said it shouldn't just be up to the rental companies to educate tourists taking to our roads.

"I think it's partly the rental companies, but it's also all of the other stakeholders working together, so it's the international airlines that are bringing them here, it’s the police, New Zealand road authorities, and the rental agencies all working together to get a message across."

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The study’s author, Professor Neil Carr from the University of Otago, discusses its findings.